HOW TO LOVE YOUR LIVER
And Why You Should
When people imagine their liver, they often picture some gross slimy thing that does a mysterious function in the body, maybe something related to alcohol and drugs. And why should we care?
But here’s the truth: your liver is essential! Without your liver, your body would not be able to breakdown nutrients or filter out the toxins that we put in our bodies every day.
You are constantly putting stress on your liver through the barrage of toxins in our environment, and you likely don’t even realize it. Thankfully, with the help of eastern medicine, there are some simple and natural ways to improve your health and give your liver some much-needed love!
The Important Functions of Your Liver in Western Medicine
So, what exactly is your liver? Now, I’m not talking about the gross pâté your aunt makes on the holidays or that dish you see at the fancy European restaurant. I’m talking about the essential organ in your body that filters toxins, digests nutrients, and makes the proteins that are the core of your body’s functioning.
Without the liver, you actually cannot survive! The liver is located above the stomach in the center of your body and has 5 primary functions according to western medicine:
- Filtration – the liver filters the blood and breaks down toxins or harmful substances that are excreted out of the body through the bile and eventually through stool (see, your poop is actually a good thing!)
- Digestion – the liver breaks down nutrients from food into small molecules that can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream and into our cells
- Metabolism and Detoxification – the liver is crucial in detoxing drugs, alcohol, and other foreign substances, which are excreted out of the body through stool or urine
- Protein Synthesis – the proteins made by the liver form essential functions in the body for the structure and function of every cell
- Storage of Vitamins, Minerals, and Glucose – all those supplements you take every day (ok, maybe every other day) are stored in your liver before being released into the blood. Additionally, the storage of glucose is crucial in the process of blood sugar regulation, which is the primary contributing factor to diabetes and metabolic syndrome
In addition to the above primary functions, the liver also produces bile, regulates amino acids, regulates blood clotting, and protects us from infections. As you can see, the liver is a pretty big deal!
What is the Liver According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
Moving on from all that boring anatomy stuff are the more exciting ideas in eastern medicine! In traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is not quite the same as the physical organ we have come to know and love in western medicine.
In TCM, the liver has a more energetic and spiritual significance instead. See below for the 5 primary functions of the liver according to TCM:
- Dispersion and Dredging – these vague and confusing words essentially mean that your liver regulates emotions, digestion, absorption, and the circulation of qi or vital life energy (notice any similarities to the western functions of the liver?)
- Houses the Hun – in TCM, the hun is our spiritual consciousness and is essentially the vital life spark inside of all of us. It relates to your dreams, desires, passions, thoughts, communication, intelligence, and essentially what makes you,
- Supports the Eyes, Tendons, and Nails – the liver meridian or channel in the body plays a crucial role in nourishing the eyes, keeping your tendons functioning well, and improving nail health (I’m talking about the essential base of your manicure here!)
- Controls Anger – anger is an emotion that is deeply tied to liver health, and it goes in both directions, which means that when you are angry, this can impair your liver. Also, if your liver health is compromised, this can create anger within you!
- Source of Endurance – if you have been wanting to get into long-distance running but get winded just jogging around the block, then it may actually be your liver’s fault! (ok, maybe it was also that late-night Netflix binge, but who’s judging?)
The definition of the liver in western medicine and eastern medicine has some distinct differences, but these definitions also share crucial similarities. Through the wisdom of TCM, you can improve your liver health both physically and energetically.
The Top 3 Ways to Love Your Liver According to Eastern Medicine
Deal with Anger and Live in Peace
Anger is the main emotion connected to the liver. When we keep our anger inside without processing it fully, these repressed emotions can fester within us and wreak havoc on the liver. Anger is not an emotion that should be avoided altogether; rather, it should be understood, accepted, felt, and then released.
Regular practice of meditation, tai chi, or qi gong can also kick those frustrations to the curb. Let’s get Zen!
Detoxify Your Life
The liver’s central role is to process toxins. So, although another Cheeto or tequila shot may feel like all you need right now to chill out, this might be making things much worse in the long run. Try opting for fresh green veggies and fruits to help boost your body’s detox system and improve digestive health.
Fermented and sour foods are also connected to the liver and can help strengthen the liver and improve detoxification (no, not Sour Patch Kids, I mean kimchi and kombucha!).
Improve Blood Circulation
In eastern medicine, the body has a system of meridians or channels that are crucial for circulating blood and energy. When there is stagnation or blockages in these channels, it can cause a wide range of impacts on overall health. Dry brushing is a simple way to break up blockages and improve circulation.
Try to focus on the insides of your thighs and calves along the liver meridian. Remember to also improve circulation in your tendons and eyes with regular exercise and relaxation.
How Do You Want to Give Your Liver Some Love?
Your liver isn’t something to be afraid of, and it also isn’t something that we should take too lightly. Liver health is so important. So, give your liver a good warm hug; traditional Chinese medicine says so!