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.
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.