Spring is the season of growth, regeneration, increased activity, and new beginnings. The transition from winter to spring can allow us the ability to get more done and spend more time outside. Generally, spring is regarded as a happy season, especially for those living in places with colder, darker winters. Most of us look forward to the spring’s warmer weather and longer days. As everything around us blossoms in the sun, so too should we embrace this renewal.
As with any seasonal change, we must pay close attention to our body’s needs during this turbulent time of seasonal change. Moving from the indoor sleepy coldness of winter and into the warm, active spirit of spring can be tough on your system when not handled with care. For many, spring months also bring allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, sinus pain, congestion, anger, irritation, and tendon problems. Many of these problems can be attributed to increased wind in the environment. And while there is nothing that can be done about external weather factors, internal wind can be addressed and diminished using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the many modalities it incorporates.
Chinese Medicine places emphasis on living in tune with the seasons. TCM theory divides the year into five seasons! These five seasons each have associations and physical qualities that can be seen in both the external or “natural” world and also within our bodies. These elements interact daily, creating balance and harmony — or stirring up chaos within the body.
TCM associates spring with the liver and gallbladder. The gallbladder governs decision-making and controls the sinews of the body, while the liver is in charge of detoxification and keeping the energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) flowing smoothly. The liver tends to be a bit of a “bully” for many people, overwhelming bodily systems, so it’s important to keep it healthy. Often, winter months leave us with stagnant feelings in areas like relationships, work, and in our bodies. If we experience frustration, physical pain, or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing optimally. The liver and gallbladder are also related to the tendons, storing blood during periods of rest and releasing it to the tendons during times of activity. Because this pair of organs are responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body, our daily activities should reflect this.
6 Ways to Rebalance Your Liver and Gallbladder
Stretch daily. Regular stretching is a great way to start and end the day. Adding yoga or tai chi to your daily routine can be very beneficial for the liver, tendons, and the body as a whole.
Get outside. Spending more time outside is another easy and powerful way to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies in the spring. Moving around outside can get your heart rate up and keep you warm — if the temperature is still quite cold where you live, consider a warm-up exercise routine for inside before you brave the cold. Remember to dress in layers, wear boots instead of gym shoes, wear a warm hat, gloves, and socks, and, most importantly, protect your neck with a nice warm scarf.
For people with kids and families, getting outside is an excellent way to stay healthy and have fun together. Consider a walk with the dog, visiting a new park, playing basketball, soccer, rollerblading, biking, or even a good old game of frisbee with your family and kids. If you live in a wintery area, you might even seek out a local ice rink! In fact, at a moderate pace simply skating laps can burn up to 500 calories per hour while toning the muscles in your lower body and core that keep you mobile and limber. If ice skating sounds too cold for you, a bunded-up bike ride is another favorite spring activity. Because of its cardiovascular nature and use of the big quadriceps and gluteal muscles, biking will warm your body quickly.
Eat more greens. Eating fresh leafy greens is supportive of the liver’s detoxification function and can also help strengthen vision, thanks to the vitamins and nutrients in these veggies. And luckily, fresh greens are abundantly available in springtime!
Understand the elements. In TCM spring is associated with the element of wood. When a person is completely balanced, transitioning from one season to another doesn’t feel like a big deal. However, knowing what elemental type you are can be 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 bits of rage.
Avoid overstimulation. It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee and caffeine supplements are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. However during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually become harmful to the body. Symptoms can manifest themselves as headaches, insomnia, anger, and more.
Get your seasonal tune-up. To keep the liver and gallbladder working smoothly, things like acupuncture, herbal formulas, nutritional counseling can make a world of difference. Acupuncture can balance the body as it reacts to the changes in the weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been shown to boost immunity. Spring can also cause flare-ups associated with seasonal allergies and acupuncture treatments can help with the inflammation, sneezing, runny nose, chest congestion, and watery eyes that accompany the allergic reactions. But most of all, acupuncture can help regulate those emotional imbalances that are often common during this transitional period.
As with any health care regiment, always be sure to seek out a fully licensed and properly trained professional, such as myself and my colleagues. By incorporating some simple practices into your life, you may just have a more enjoyable metamorphosis from winter into spring. If you need a little motivation to ease the transition, don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule your next appointment.
Fact: You will take about 20,000 breaths today. Let’s take a big one now...aaah, that’s better.
Now imagine having to take all of those breaths as someone with asthma, wheezing, feeling like you can’t fully inhale. That’s the case for approximately 1 in 13 people in the United States who have asthma. Maybe you’re one of those people suffering!
Do you suffer from allergies or asthma? If so, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that more than 26 million Americans have chronic inflammatory disease asthma, while more than 50 million Americans have nasal allergies. While most people resort to harsh prescription drugs to treat these conditions with awful side effects, a safer and more effective solution lies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture.
Some people might turn their head at the thought of treating asthma by placing small needles under your skin. However, this ancient practice is believed to be effective in the treatment of numerous respiratory disorders.
Several studies over the past decade have shown that when patients with asthma receive regular acupuncture treatments, they have fewer asthma attacks and less labored breathing. Some studies show an even more significant improvement when acupuncture treatments are combined with Western medical treatment, as acupuncture is an incredibly safe, natural, and effective complementary treatment.
A study conducted by the University Medical Center in Berlin (→ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23420231/) explored the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). Over 400 patients were divided into three groups. The first received proper and regular acupuncture treatments, the second received a similar treatment however the acupuncture needles were not placed in proper acupoints, while the third group was only allowed to take antihistamines. This study was able to conclude that the group receiving proper and regular acupuncture treatments reported the greatest relief from symptoms as compared to the other two groups.
Other studies (such as → https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22313287/) have looked into acupuncture for the treatment of eczema. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an itchy rash that can be caused by common irritants. Though this study came to the conclusion that acupuncture did not work well to prevent eczema, it did however significantly reduce itchiness and pain in many patients who were experiencing outbreaks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) even lists asthma as being “a condition for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that acupuncture will cure your asthma, but it can help alleviate the symptoms and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
Acupuncture involves the placement of fine needles in specific points of the body, known as acupuncture points. The idea behind this practice is that placing the needles in these areas will restore the body’s flow of energy (Qi). When Qi becomes stagnant, it leaves the individual susceptible to disease and illness, which is why it’s important to keep it moving throughout the body. Professional acupuncturists often treat asthma by using acupuncture points found in the Lung, Stomach and Kidney meridians.
Acupuncture may also help those who suffer from allergies. Allergies are the result of the immune system’s wrongful identification of what it believes to be a foreign invader. When you are exposed to an allergen, your immune system may view the substance or pathogen as being a foreign invader, at which point it responds by manifesting symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.
By restoring the body’s Qi, the immune system is given a helpful boost of energy that allows it to properly identify what’s a foreign invader and what’s not. Whether your allergies are minor or severe, you should consider seeking the services of an acupuncturist. It’s a safe and painless process that can reinvigorate your body and mind, alleviating the symptoms of both allergies and asthma. A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found acupuncture to offer greater relief of allergies when compared to both antihistamines and sham acupuncture.
For many years I had won Nattie Awards (over 10!) in Portland, these are consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine, and every year since the first unexpected one in 2014, I kept thinking, "I can't possibly win again, right? I'm sure this is the year I won't win one" and then it would happen again!! All the way through 2019 it just kept happening and I have been so grateful and so humbled by every single one.
Then in 2020 I didn't win - but not because no one voted for me, because they stopped! Yes, another Covid Casualty was the Natural Awakenings Magazine Nattie Awards. They said they didn't have enough circulation to hold the contest and that they hoped to resume in 2021.
So, the Nattie's are on hold, but I thought this would be a great chance for me to see if I could get nominated for the Best of Clark County awards - will you help me? I have had several patients ask me about this over the last couple of years because they went to vote for me and I wasn't there! Being unfamiliar with the contest, it took a little investigation to figure it out. You see, with the BOCC you have to be nominated first. Only if you get nominated enough in the nomination round, can you be in the voting round.
So - will you nominate me?
Since I've never been in these awards before you have to write my business name in (which you can search for in their handy little search bar and then it enters the name for you) but its a pretty easy process. Nominations are open until April 25 and then the voting begins.
If you have a moment and the motivation, please click the link above or the button below and nominate me. If I make it through then I'll be on the voting list!
Thank you always for your belief in me and my business. It means so much to be of service and I deeply love what I do. I also feel so fortunate to have a business that is surviving this pandemic, and that I feel has been able to help some people through it. I know without my work I would have had a much harder time making it through - so thank you, all of you my wonderful patients and friends - for believing in me and my business and keeping positive intent for healing and change in my life.
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.