The gallbladder is one of the most commonly treated yang organ energetic systems we treat with acupuncture. Each system in Chinese medicine is designated as either yin or yang. Very generally speaking, the yin organ systems store vital substances, whereas yang organ systems fill and empty themselves more dynamically. Each yin organ system is paired with a yang organ system and vice versa. In modern acupuncture practice, most acupuncturists pay a lot of attention to the yin organ systems, but the yang systems are very important too.
The gallbladder is one such system. Now, it is important to note that from a Chinese Medicine perspective, when we talk about a particular organ, such as the liver or heart or gallbladder, we are not talking about the physical organ that sits inside your body. Rather, we are talking about a complex system of energy that flows within particular pathways and has a particular physiological function.
In Chinese Medicine, one of the essential functions of the gallbladder system is to control the flow of bile. This is its yang organ function of filling and emptying. Each yang organ is paired with a yin organ - the gallbladder is paired with the liver. The liver and gallbladder work together on many physiological functions, including bile production and excretion.
The gallbladder system controls the sinews (or ligaments and tendons.) Thus, points on the gallbladder meridian are often treated for any sort of soft tissue injury, such as tendonitis, muscle sprains, strains and tendon tears. The gallbladder meridian itself runs along the sides of the body - making it doubly useful for musculoskeletal pain affecting the neck, shoulders, ribs, lateral abdominals, hips, IT Bands, knees, shins and ankles.
On a mental-emotional level, the gallbladder system is related to decisiveness and courage. A strong gallbladder gives us the ability to make decisions, and the courage to see them through. A weak gallbladder leads to lots of second-guessing, timidity and fearfulness.
On both a physical and a mental/emotional level, the gallbladder is about stability and the boundaries of self. Physically, the gallbladder meridian traverses the borders of our body - when its function is impaired, musculoskeletal problems easily arise and our balance and equilibrium are weakened. Emotionally, a weak gallbladder means our sense of self is endangered - we are unable to fight for what we believe in, we waver in our opinions and we are apprehensive with our interactions with the outer world.
Nourishing the Gallbladder through Food
Because of the gallbladder’s close relationship with the liver, any liver-nourishing foods will benefit the gallbladder as well, such as liver, mustard greens, goji berries, beets, broccoli and sprouts. Because the gallbladder is closely tied to digestive function through bile production, when trying to balance the gallbladder energy, it is important to limit fried and greasy foods, as well as dairy, sugar, caffeine or highly acidic foods.
Nourishing the Gallbladder through Lifestyle
Of all the systems in the body, the gallbladder system perhaps craves movement the most. The gallbladder meridian will become cranky and painful with lack of movement. So do your best to incorporate some sort of exercise each day.
Stretching enlivens the connective tissue, which the gallbladder system controls. Take a yoga class, or devote some extra time to stretching post-workout. In particular, try to incorporate stretches that get to the sides of your body, as this is gallbladder meridian territory.
Work out the muscle knots.
Use massage, acupuncture or foam rolling to break up adhesions in the connective tissue of the IT Bands, neck and shoulders or back. Physically, this will help you to recover more quickly after exercise and help alleviate pain and tension. Emotionally, it may also let you free from old emotions, as emotions are often stored in the body in the form of tension, knots and pain. Releasing those knots, particularly along the gallbladder meridian, can help you find strength and flexibility you didn’t know you had.
Spring is generally regarded as a happy season, especially for those that live in areas where winter is cold and dark. Spring brings with it longer days, more sunshine, the rebirth of plants and more activity. But for many, the months of spring can also bring irritability, anxiety, sinus issues, allergy flare-ups and even colds.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years, which gives the medical system, as a whole, a lot of credibility. TCM classifies things in many different ways. There are five seasonal associations in TCM - winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has its own unique set of properties and associations. Spring is associated with the wood element. The wood element governs the liver and the gallbladder and their energetic pathways in TCM. The five seasons and their corresponding elements interact with one another daily, creating balance and harmony or complete chaos within the body.
The season of spring is a time of expansive movement and growth. Spring is a time of creativity and planning. Since the liver and gallbladder are associated with the tendons and are responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body, our daily activities should reflect this. Being more active and spending more time outside can be great ways to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies during the months of spring. We should imitate the budding trees and flowers and allow ourselves to grow and reach for bigger and better goals during the spring.
The color green is the color of spring in TCM. During these months, fresh greens are abundant. It is highly recommended that we incorporate more fresh greens into our daily diets. Greens have been shown to be very beneficial for helping the liver do its job, detoxifying the blood. Dandelion greens, in particular, are a good source for detoxification, which ultimately strengthens the liver and gallbladder meridians.
It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually be harmful to the body. It can create headaches, insomnia, anger and more.
When a person is completely balanced, transitioning from one season to another is not such a big deal. However, knowing what elemental type you are can also be very beneficial in determining how you will react to each passing season. For instance, a person who has a wood element constitution, may experience anger during the spring. This is because the wood element is already closely associated with the emotion of anger and spring brings added stimuli that can trigger fits of rage.
One way to keep the body balanced is through acupuncture and TCM. The body is designed to maintain proper balance, but we tend to not pay attention to the warning signs until we experience pain or illness. Getting regular acupuncture treatments can work as preventive medicine, providing harmony throughout every season of the year.
If you experience feelings of anxiety, anger or even self-loathing, acupuncture can help. It can also help with those seasonal allergies that might flare up. Acupuncture is a wonderful way to maintain health and balance all year long. Be sure to find a fully licensed acupuncturist in your area, so you can enjoy spring without any emotional or physical impairment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is ruled by a particular organ system and spring is connected to the liver. What does this mean? Well, you probably notice changes in the way you feel, both physically and mentally, as the seasons change. I know I tend to feel a bit more contemplative and introspective during the winter months. Once spring hits, I'm ready to recharge and get things done. The liver energy is strong and assertive, the type of energy you need to create plans and then propel them into motion. However, if your liver is a little out of balance, you might notice you are more irritable or on edge than usual. Here are a few signs that your liver is in need of an acupuncture tune-up:
1. You've noticed an increase in headaches lately, and these headaches seem to feel worse when you aren't active. Generally these headaches tend to manifest at the vertex of your head.
2. You might begin to feel constipated or bloated. Your bowel movements might become irregular, alternating between constipation and loose stools. Hard, difficult stools that appear pebbly are also a sign of liver imbalance.
3. Your friends or coworkers are scared of you, because you are cranky, cranky, cranky. When liver energy is out of balance you might feel agitated, irritated and generally out of sorts. Sometimes irritation can expand into outright anger more easily than it would if this energy was flowing smoothly.
4. Ladies, you may notice your PMS symptoms have been worse lately. Bloating, breast tenderness, sensitivity...you can blame all of the above on your liver. If your periods are more painful or clotted, this is also due to a stagnation of liver energy.
5. Your eyes are red, itchy or irritated.
6. Your shoulders, neck or jaw are uncomfortably tight. If the liver energy is out of balance, it can flow upward. This causes everything in your body to rise up: you might grind or clench your teeth, your shoulders will levitate up around your ears, and you might experience symptoms of TMJ.
7. Your allergies are in full force, complete with itchy, red, watery eyes.
If you are suffering from any of these issues, your body is crying out for a visit to your acupuncturist!
As some of you may know, my family and I moved from SW Portland to Ridgefield, WA (right on the border of La Center, as in our windows literally look at the town) and as part of that transition, I realized that I could no longer commute into Portland on Tuesdays anymore where I worked one afternoon a week for a Naturopath friend of mine on SW Macadam. At long last, I finally found the perfect opportunity to replace that Tuesday afternoon, a practice of my own in La Center!
La Center is the sweetest community and I couldn't be more excited to be opening a small shop. I will be there Tuesday afternoons only to start. For my Portland patients please don't fret, I'm not closing shop! Just opening that Tuesday afternoon. As the year progresses I may add one more day in La Center, but I'm taking it one step at a time.
My La Center practice is located inside The Heritage Building on 4th & Cedar in the heart of town. There is a lovely massage therapist there who also houses yoga classes out of her suite, a salon, a lovely counselor, Docudriven and a local nonprofit called La Center United, a home builder and a construction company. I highly recommend them all!
My schedule at La Center is online and ready for booking - you can book in using the button below. My insurance contracts are in process, but I am already contracted there to see Kaiser patients and my BCBS contract should come through in a few days! All the rest are in the queue just waiting their bureaucratic turn.
Questions? Shoot me a message! Or go ahead and book in below. Look forward to seeing you there, spread the word if you know anyone looking for experienced care in the area!
Yours in Health,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.