I am not Chinese, but I have many friends who are traditional Chinese medical practitioners. One thing stands out each time I talk with them about health issues: They have a very different viewpoint from me—a Westerner.
I grew up in a medicalized culture of treating illness, and I never thought that our emotions play a part in health and prevention. Namely, the build-up of mental and emotional stress overwhelms the liver, so it can’t do it’s job. Consequently, we become sluggish and depressed.
In Chinese medicine, it is believed that health is a result of a good flow of qi (chi) energy, which brings balance, both emotionally and physically.
The liver is vital, as it is the engine that drives the circulation of the qi, and nourishes the blood.
When the liver is healthy you feel energetic, with a positive metal state.
When the liver is struggling, a blockage begins to manifest and can reside in any of your organs. When you feel sad, the blockage is in your lungs.
In Western medicine, liver failure has been associated with depression as well.
When visiting a Chinese doctor, they may ask which emotions are being stirred up, then link the emotion to a particular organ. Your emotional state is a tell-tale sign of qi stagnation. So the doctor gives advice on how to fortify your liver, to stimulate qi-flow. Commonly, they prescribe herbs and give acupuncture to kick-start this process.
The take-away message here is: “Love your liver, and your liver will keep your whole body healthy and harmonious.”
How to love your liver
- Drink warming ginger and lemon tea to keep cold/damp conditions at bay.
- Add sour pickles to your meal. The liver loves sour, cleansing foods.
- Find ways to de-stress daily: Qigong, Yoga, breathing exercises, walking or swimming.
- Let go. You may need to cry to release stress hormones; follow what you feel.
- Rebalance your lifestyle. Give yourself enough sleep, and keep refined sugar and alcohol to a minimum—these are not the liver’s friends.
- If life feels overwhelming, seek help. A councillor can help you find the root cause of your stress. Once you acknowledge the problem, you can take steps to make your own choices and changes with clarity.
Chinese medicine has a holistic perspective. The ancient knowledge acknowledges that every person is unique and has a different constitution, linked to the 5 Element theory.