Being at your best in the spring season

Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc

Today's article is about being at your best in the Spring season !

Spring is often the favorite season. A time for regeneration, renewal, freshness, new beginnings and new life. During winter, we reduce activity and conserve our energy. It can often feel like forever while we’re waiting for winter to turn into spring.

When spring arrives, the seeds sprout, flowers bloom, the sun warms and rejuvenates us. Spring is a time for movement, expansion, birth and growth. A time for creativity, planning and inspiration. In the spring season, the yang (warming energy) is increasing.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has much to say about how we live our lives according to which season we are in. This is to prevent illness and achieve optimal well being. The five seasons in Chinese medicine are spring, summer, late summer, fall and winter. Each season belongs to different attributes and guides the movement of nature. This in turn gives us guidance on how our bodies respond to these seasonal shifts.

TCM incorporates the principle of the Five Elements in its teachings. The five elements refer to wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The Principle of the Five Elements describes the flow of Qi (energy) and the balance of yin and yang.The five elements are constantly changing with each one being dominant at different times in the natural world. Illness occurs when the elements become out of balance and one element becomes too dominant. Each person is a blend of these five elements which need to be balanced in order to be at one’s optimal health and well being.

According to the principle, all change ” in the universe and in your body ” occurs in five distinct stages. Each of these stages is associated with a particular time of year, a specific element in nature, and a pair of organs in the body. Change links together the seasons of the year, aspects of nature, and your body’s organs and bodily processes. A practitioner of TCM uses this principle to diagnose and treat health problems, using specific diet and lifestyle recommendations, herbs, and acupuncture points to the restore balance in the body.

Let’s talk more about SPRING.

The element associated with spring is wood. Wood refers to growing, living and expanding things likes trees, plants and humans. It represents the energy of growth, change and pushing through. Just like the trees and plants are reaching upward to the sky, we are to also grow and expand, plan for the future, and leave the dark winter behind us.

The organ systems associated with spring are the liver and gallbladder organs. These two organs are the primary organs to take care of for springtime cleansing as spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation.

These are the season of spring associations:

  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Green
  • Nature: Yang (active)
  • Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
  • Emotion: Anger
  • Taste: Sour
  • Energy: Upward
  • Climate: Wind

According to the TCM, the liver organ system is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. Below are some ways to help our liver function in the spring season.

Green Color: The color associated with spring is green. To balance the fast movement and growth of this season, we can incorporate more fresh greens and sprouts into our diet. These green vegetables aid in cleansing the body and aiding the liver’s overall functions. Speaking of green, people’s faces can sometimes look a bit green. This is a indication that your liver may be out of balance and time to clean up your diet and reduce alcohol intake.

Stretching: The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. A common presentation of liver stagnation is a tight and rigid body because of the lack of moisture to the tendons. I advise to do morning stretches and even better to try yoga or tai chi.

Eyes:  The liver opens into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises. It is also interesting that springtime allergies cause itchy red burning eyes because of the connection between spring, the liver and the eyes. If you are struggling with seasonal allergies, TCM can be a game changer.

Sour foods:  Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver’s qi (energy). Put lemon slices in your drinking water or use apple cider vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. Add a slice of dill pickle to your sandwiches. Starting your day with cup of hot water and lemon is an excellent habit to get into because it aids the liver function so well.

Avoid salty and heavy foods:  With spring’s expanding and ascending nature, it is recommended to avoid salty and heavy foods. Why? Salty foods can cause sinking or shrinking of the Qi (energy). Heavy foods like saturated fats, lard, cream, milk, cheese, eggs, shortening and margarine can be very cloying to the liver. Instead, try to eat more pungent and sweet foods. Some examples of pungent herbs are basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, and bay leaf. Eat complex carbohydrates like grains, legumes, and seeds because they are sweet in nature. Carrots, beets, and other starchy vegetables are also recommended. As are all types of onions.

Do more outdoor activities:  Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking, light jogging, and long walks.

Drink Milk thistle and dandelion tea: Milk thistle and dandelion tea are good to cleanse the liver. They help protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourage the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.

Get Acupuncture: Acupuncture moves the liver-Qi and unblocks the channels. With a smoother flow of Qi, we feel lighter, happier, calmer, and less stuck.

Avoid excessive stimulants during spring. Coffee tends to be very expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, when life is more active, excess energy can actually be harmful to the body. It can create headaches, insomnia, and/or anger.

Anger and the Liver:  Speaking of anger, when the liver is out of balance (or stuck), the emotion that can easily be associated with it is anger. When the liver is balanced, however, we feel calm, at ease, and happy. When we have so many unfulfilled desires and don’t feel aligned with our purpose, we tend to feel stuck. This stuck feeling leads to the liver not moving the Qi smoothly throughout the body and can lead to pain, PMS, menstrual cramps, tightness in the neck, shoulders and jaw and digestive complaints like irregular bowel movements and bloating. People who hold on to anger, resentment and frustration can tend to have more stuck liver Qi. Spring can be a season where you may easily feel more impatient and irritable if your liver is out of balance.

Other articles you may be interested in when it comes to living according to the seasons are…

Staying healthy in the winter

TCM Tips to keep healthy in the Fall


Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

In Support,
Dr. Maryam

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