Spring is imminent, which means some liver loving is in order.
Here in the Southwestern portion of the U.S., trees all over are bursting with flowers right now, and in my garden, I am seeing emerging signs of life. In order to support new growth, I’ve been clearing out old growth from last season and adding nutrients to the soil via compost. As humans, we are intimately connected with nature, and if we slow down long enough to notice, we can see parallels between our own needs and desires and those of Mother Nature.
With Spring Equinox happening in two weeks, now is a great time to start giving your liver a little more love, by minimizing whatever you’re consuming or engaging in that bogs your system down and impedes optimal functioning. At the same time, you’ll want to focus on foods and activities that bring in more nutrients, energy, joy, love and inspiration. It’s time to spring into action. You’ve been percolating ideas and creativity over the winter (whether you’re aware of it or not), and now it’s time for all of that inner work to burst into life. To make that happen, you’ve got to let go of what is no longer serving you and give yourself the elements you need to up-level your vibration, and in turn, your health and your life. This is what “detoxing” is really all about. It’s about creating space for loving yourself more. More than you currently think that you can. It’s also about loving your liver, and everything I’m going to talk about below impacts your liver on some level.
What should a detox look like for you?
If you’re dealing with any type of issue, such as an autoimmune disease (think fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s, lupus, Crohn’s, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, etc.), acid reflux, migraines/headaches, weight loss resistance, irritable bowel syndrome and even hormonal imbalances, dysregulated menstrual cycles or infertility, you may want to at least think about eliminating potentially inflammatory foods as a part of an elimination diet to reduce inflammation and heal your gut. Decreasing inflammation frees up antioxidants for your liver to use in its detoxification processes. That’s why an elimination diet should always be the basis of a true “detox”. Plus, many common symptoms and conditions, like those mentioned above and more, are directly impacted by poor detoxification.
Remember that all inflammation and dis-ease starts in the gut. About 70% of your immune tissue is in your gut, so your immune system and your digestive tract work together very seamlessly. In fact, did you know that you can have the genetics for an autoimmune disease, but unless your gut health and flora are compromised, those genes won’t turn on? So, if you have an autoimmune disease or are experiencing signs of inflammation brewing, a gut-healing elimination diet is the best place to start, whether you just want to try a detox or you’re looking for natural treatment with diet. Right out of the gate, this is how we roll in Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition, because as integrative practitioners, we understand that in order to bring the system back into balance, we must address the root causes of inflammation for each individual, while also emphasizing nutrient and emotional (because all physical issues have emotional roots) support, based on the signs and symptoms of the person.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot people and to see how the various elimination diets work over time, and what I’ve found is that it is critical to be very thorough from the outset. I used to encourage people to just try going gluten- and dairy-free at first, and if that’s where you’re at, that’s fine; however, it can be really discouraging if you put in all of that effort and it doesn’t work, because you did not eliminate what was really bugging your system. That’s why I recommend the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) as an elimination diet. It takes out more potentially inflammatory and gut-irritating foods than any elimination diet I’ve seen. It’s more restrictive, but it really helps to reduce inflammation and identify food sensitivities, and in my practice, I have found that it consistently brings the quick symptom reduction that my clients are really after. It’s basically a diet of pastured and wild meats and fish, vegetables (no nightshades) and fruits. It’s very basic for your system and nutrient-rich. A benefit that I’ve noticed with AIP is that you can’t hide behind filler foods like grains, nuts and beans. You really have to rely mostly on veggies for your carbs, which totally changes the way you approach food, brings in a lot more nutrients AND encourages better blood sugar regulation. By the way, eating for optimal blood sugar is the major KEY to reducing inflammation and preventing energy crashes, carb and sugar cravings and mood swings. This is foundational to the work that I do with my VIP clients. AIP can be used by anyone—not just those with who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. There are different ways to implement it, based on individual needs. Plus, for those who experience an array of inflammatory symptoms, but have no official diagnosis, it’s important to know that you may be on what Functional Medicine physician, Dr. Amy Myers calls, “the autoimmune spectrum.” More on that next week, in honor of National Autoimmune Awareness Month.
Even if you don’t struggle with a chronic set of symptoms or a “dis-ease”, or if you’re just starting down the path of health transformation, now is still a great time to reduce inflammatory foods, like added sugars, trans fats, fast & processed foods, chemical food additives and pesticide residues, as well as chemicals and toxic elements from unfiltered water, personal care products and plastics. It’s also a great time to increase anti-inflammatory foods, herbs and spices, as well as fermented foods that bring in beneficial gut microbes. Anytime we “detox”, we have to think about not only removing toxins and irritants to lessen the liver’s load, but also adding nourishment and support to give the liver (and all systems) what is needed for optimizing detoxification pathways and overall functioning.
Now is also the time to do an inventory of your emotional landscape. What negative lines of thinking are repeatedly running in your mind? What uncomfortable emotions perpetually pop up for you and for those around you? Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” What a powerful statement. To me, this means that we can use our most painful thoughts and emotions to illuminate the parts of ourselves that need more love and more acceptance. When we do this, we heighten our experience of life and our healing journey. When we can slow down and just look at our most painful thoughts, feelings and memories, and accept them as a part of our perfectly unfolding path (instead of judging, denying or repressing them), it’s amazing how quickly they begin to dissolve. When we dissolve our suffering in this way, we free up our energy for more love to come in, and and along with it, more opportunities to experience the fullness of life and healing.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, recurring anger, resentment, frustration and overall high stress is sign of Liver qi stagnation, so if this is an issue for you, it’s important to give your liver some love by both supporting it nutritionally and emotionally.
To “detox” thoughts and emotions that aren’t serving you, all you need to do is to appreciate your present state. There is nothing else you need to do. Come back to the present each time you notice you’ve let yourself slip into lamenting over the past or worrying about the future. Just keep coming back. In addition, make a point to do things that make you feel good inside and get your creative juices flowing, such as dancing, cooking without time constraints, painting, hiking, yoga, fishing, listening to or creating live music, etc. You will also find that spending less time with people who encourage negativity (i.e., gossiping, self-loathing, self-deprivation) helps, too. This is how you “detox” your emotional landscape in a nutshell.
Are your wheels turning now? Are you inspired to do some liver loving over the next few weeks? I hope so!
Here are 7 Ways to Love Your Liver:
- Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods, whether you choose to do an elimination diet like AIP or just avoid added sugars, trans fats (hydrogenated oils), fast foods and processed foods, fried and overcooked foods, food dyes and chemical food additives.
- “Detox” your personal care products and daily essentials. Opt for natural alternatives to your daily essentials like makeup, hair styling products, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner and cleaning products. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is a great resource for finding natural products, best brands and researching ingredients. Learning how to use essential oils, herbs and nutrition to fight colds, flu and deal with everyday health issues that can arise, is also a great way to reduce your exposure to toxic over-the-counter and even prescription medications in many cases Use glass, stainless steel and silicone, instead of plastic. Drink from a reusable glass or stainless steel container. If you stop for coffee or tea, take your own safe mug. Kleen Canteens are great for water, and they make an accessory lid that allows you to sip hot beverages. Eco Jarz also makes great reusable beverage containers.
- Use more anti-inflammatory herbs and spices (they’re all anti-inflammatory) in your cooking. Pesto made from basil and spinach or even cilantro and spinach is a great way to add not only more flavor to your meals, but more antioxidants and detox support. Also add flavor to meals and smoothies with anti-inflammatory and detox-friendly turmeric and ginger. Herbal teas, like dandelion root, ginger, Rooibos chai and nettle, are a great way to support detoxification and get more nutrients and anti-oxidants.
- Get plenty of fiber from veggies AND more water. If you’re going to increase fiber, don’t forget about water, so that the fiber can be effectively moved out of your system, preventing constipation. Aim for about 80 oz of water each day, in addition to herbal teas and probiotic drinks. You may also want to increase fiber gradually to prevent constipation. Fiber is CRITICAL to proper detoxification. When the liver is finished deactivating toxins, they are carried out in bile. You must have fiber in the gut to essentially soak up the bile and move it out with a bowel movement. If you don’t have enough fiber in your diet and in your gut to make this happen, those deactivated toxins can basically be reabsorbed and reactivated in your system.
- Exercise! Get your heart rate up for 15-30 minutes a day, at least. Your liver and your digestive system are your two main detoxification workhorses, as well as your kidneys, and don’t forget about your lungs and skin. When we increase our respiratory rate and perspire, we are clearing toxins from the body. When we don’t do this enough, the clearing of toxins that our lungs and skin should be taking care of, gets relegated back to the liver. If the liver is already overloaded due to increased environmental toxin exposure (very common) or gut infections that create an increased toxin load (again, very common), it will not be able to handle this extra load efficiently. Allow all systems to do their jobs!
- Take that inventory of your emotional landscape, and develop a practice of stillness each day. Focus on cultivating acceptance of and gratitude for your current experience (and your liver). Try this: when negative thoughts or emotions arise during your day, ask yourself how these might be illuminating an aspect of your being that needs to be heard (not opposed or repressed as we have been taught). You can do this at any point during the day, and you may also want to do this type of inquiry during meditation, or after spending a few minutes focusing on your breathing. Some of my clients say they like to paint, color, go for an easy walk or take a nice hot bath to get still inside and focus on acceptance and gratitude. You don’t have to be physically still per se, but it does help. Essential oils like lavender, vetiver, cypress and frankincense can help to quiet your mind and get you into a more open and receptive state if you need a little help with that.
- Literally give your liver some love. Place your hand over your liver (about 3/4 down your right rib cage) and send it some loving energy and thank it for all that it does so well for you. Acknowledge how hard it works. Visualize your liver smiling. I’m not making this up. This actually comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Give it a try!
I hope this has been helpful to you, and I also hope that you now have a new and even more balanced perspective of the word, “detox”. It’s so much more than depriving yourself of food for days on end. Please reach out to me with any questions you have. If you’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/orPeriscope (@EnlightenedWellFx), I invite you to connect with me there or visit my website for additional tips, support and inspiration on your healing journey and for your overall healthy, high-vibe life.
Here’s to wellness BEYOND the status quo…
Health & Happiness,