Find out how looking after your liver can help you become successful
What were your goals for this year? How were you going to achieve them? January is the month when millions of us resolved to become better, healthier and more successful. It’s the time when such resolutions are made and often broken. January is also the #LoveYourLiver Month – a nation-wide campaign of the British Liver Trust to raise awareness about liver health.
It’s vital to get your liver checked to establish if you have a liver condition. You must also remember just how fundamentally important your liver is to your overall health, both physical and mental. If you neglect your liver then it will be extremely difficult for you to not only achieve your resolutions, but to even make any resolutions at all (There is a saying: ‘The liver controls planning’). It’s therefore crucial that you look after your liver not only in January but during every month of the year.
Why is it so common for people to give up on their new year’s resolutions, even when the goal is something desirable, or even important, such as to reach a healthy weight, learn a new skill or to become a better friend/call your parents more often, etc.? The answer could lie in the state of the person’s liver – also known as the hardest working organ in the body and the one responsible for keeping us healthy.
The liver performs vital functions which include storing and circulating blood that carries essential energy to the rest of your body. It is only when there is sufficient blood, fully circulating, that you can properly use your muscles and your mind to make realistic plans and execute them. The role of the liver in the circulation of blood is different from the function performed by the heart. You need them both to work in harmony.
This understanding of the liver as a cornerstone of vitality dates back to 3rd century BC when a major medical textbook The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine described the liver not only in terms of its form and position as an essential organ inside the human body but also in terms of its functions in person’s overall physical and mental well-being.
The textbook is based on 2,500 years of clinical records gathered in China. Two thousand years later, it is still very relevant as a reference point for Chinese Medicine and acupuncture now being used to help millions of people prevent and overcome diseases and live healthy, long and productive lives. Strengthening specific internal organs, such as the liver, and keeping them energised by using herbs and acupuncture is a common approach employed in Chinese Medicine to enable people reach and maintain optimal health.
With the Chinese New Year about to be celebrated across the world now is a great time to get back on track with your 2014 resolutions. Whatever your aims for this year, it’s very likely that your liver will play a crucial role in your success. Here’s why:
In order to slim down you must stop starving yourself and start treating your liver as a key organ in your body’s digestion and assimilation of food. Chinese Medicine has recorded various causes of unwanted weight gain. The failure of the stomach and the spleen to properly process food and drink is amongst the most common reasons. The unprocessed food and liquids end up in your system as fatty waste and dampness adding weight to your body. The liver plays a crucial role in making the digestion and assimilation process run smoothly.
One of the liver’s main functions is to circulate blood and vital energy throughout the body, including the digestive system (stomach, spleen and gall bladder). A proper circulation of blood is an essential precondition for digestion as well as assimilation of food because your body, its skin and bones absorb the nutrients from the digested food via blood circulated by the liver. The liver’s close relationship with the digestive system means that Chinese medical weight loss treatments rarely neglect this organ and actually devote some of the acupuncture and herbal treatment to tonifying it.
A common cause of overweight recognised by Chinese Medicine is excessive ‘comfort eating’ habitually done in response to difficult emotions. Chinese Medicine understands the liver to be vital to a person’s emotional well-being. There 2 main reasons for this are:
Firstly, a healthy balance of emotions depends on a full and balanced circulation of essential energy (Qi) across the body. If the liver can properly carry out this circulation then it becomes easier for a person to control common emotions such as fear and anger by balancing them with positive emotions and maintaining a more rational outlook across life’s situations. It’s inevitable that you will constantly go through a range of emotions, everyday. The main question is can your liver maintain a good blood and Qi circulation to help you keep your mind stable.
Secondly, the liver itself is most affected by emotions, especially anger, sadness and depression. These emotions have a ‘contracting’ effect on the liver and impede its ability to circulate blood and Qi. As we just saw, a smooth circulation of blood and Qi, without any obstructions, is an essential precondition to a good digestion and assimilation of food. Avoid the vicious cycle of negative emotions straining the liver.
If you find yourself eating to soothe stress, anxiety or depression, then it is a sign your liver is struggling to carry out good circulation of blood and Qi necessary to help you control emotional factors. Acupuncture and certain Chinese herbs can be used to release stress and relieve the liver from the blockages caused by hard emotions. The treatment can help to create a calming effect on the body which can enable you to control emotions without excessive comfort eating. If you do not tackle these emotions then they will depress the liver and, by hampering its ability to circulate blood and Qi, will impede the digestive system which can lead to excess weight gain.
To lose weight and keep it under control, make sure your liver is in good health. Speak to one of our doctors about how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can help you lose weight. The doctors will be able to tell you, through a diagnosis, if your liver needs some support with herbs or acupuncture in order to carry out its metabolic functions at optimal level and help you keep emotions under control.
Whether you’ve resolved to exercise more this year in order to lose weight or to increase your fitness levels to run a marathon, you must first strengthen your liver if you wish to strengthen your body.
Chinese Medicine understands the liver as the organ responsible for the circulation of blood that carries the supply of essential energy to the entire body. Since a vital function of blood is to deliver the energy, the two have almost become synonymous. Circulation of blood is not enough if those blood cells are not supplemented with vital energy – Qi – in the form of nutrients extracted from food. The two should not be separated. In Chinese Medicine they are viewed as one person and its shadow (with blood being the person and Qi its shadow).
The word ‘lifeblood’ can also be used as a synonym for Qi and is especially helpful when trying to understand what powers your body on the inside. The notion of lifeblood denotes the vital importance of blood while implying that it is more than just a collection of cells but a combination of some of life’s most essential ingredients.
The liver’s role in circulating lifeblood throughout the body is most evident in the strength of your muscles and the flexibility of your tendons. Chinese Medicine understands the force and agility of your muscles, and the precision with which you can use your limbs, as a reflection of your liver’s Qi with which it endows the blood before circulating it. When you rest, your liver ‘stores’ the blood by steeping it in the body’s Qi and preps it for delivery to the muscles. Your liver also directs lifeblood to the fascia and the connective tissues which is important for the agility of your muscles. It helps you to move your hands and legs easily and with precision. All your movements and strength depend on the nutritive power of the blood enriched and circulated with decisive help from the liver.
If not enough blood is stored and circulated by the liver then the muscles and the connective tissues will not be sufficiently nourished and all kinds of difficulties will arise when using your limbs. Lack of blood can lead to joint pain, cramps, and spasms. When blood circulation from the liver is blocked then sharp pains can occur, especially in the middle (the thorax) and the sides of the body.
Chinese Medicine can help you to keep your muscles in optimal condition by using herbs and acupuncture to tonify the liver and support its function of circulating blood and energy throughout your body. This approach can also help with recovery from injuries to muscles and the joints as improved circulation in lifeblood from the liver can reduce pain and promote healing.
Before you enter the gym, or about to go for a run, make sure your liver is looked after with Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture where necessary, so that your muscles and joints are nourished and ready for exercise as you work to reach your new year’s goals.
If you have resolved to quit smoking; to put an end to alcohol or drug addiction or to simply reduce the amount you drink then Chinese Medical treatment can help by helping your liver.
The Chinese Medical approach to treating addiction includes using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to tonify the liver so that it can carry out its detoxifying duties. Soothing the liver can help it to eliminate the stagnated dampness and heat generated in the body by alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Chinese Medical treatment can also help the liver in its function of properly circulating lifeblood which is essential to mental well-being. Maintaining mental well-being is of fundamental importance when coping with withdrawal symptoms and working to gradually reduce your dependence on addictive substances such as nicotine, alcohol or drugs.
Having reviewed the results of clinical trials the World Health Organisation has agreed that acupuncture has a therapeutic effect on dependence of tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, heroin and opium. Studies have shown that Chinese Medicine can reduce the craving for cigarettes and other addictive substances. Find out more at the dedicated Addiction page here.
Even in the cases of harshest drug addictions Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can provide necessary support to strengthen the body’s ability to cope with withdrawal symptoms and help its liver to flush out the harmful toxins accumulated during drug use.
Couples aiming to have a baby this year after trying to conceive for 12 months need not despair, even if they have been diagnosed with ‘infertility’, suffered miscarriages or have given birth to children in the past. At our Fertility Clinic we have helped many couples to conceive because contrary to conventional diagnosis, they were subfertile rather than ‘infertile’ – that is, suffering from a combination of symptoms conventionally regarded as irrelevant to fertility. These symptoms include weak blood circulation and lack of energy, poor digestion and emotional imbalance (e.g. excessive stress, worry and tendency to be overcome by emotions). The presence of such symptoms indicates a stagnation of circulation within the liver as well as deficiency of energy within the kidneys and the spleen, and, a probable accumulation of dampness. These symptoms can be reversed b y using Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.
Chinese Medicine understands kidneys to be at the foundation of fertility because the health of the reproductive organs is reliant on the supply of the kidney’s essential energy. For example, a lack of such energy is reflected in the decline of the person’s sexual energy. The kidneys are directly affected by two other organs – the liver and the spleen. The liver is the organ which governs emotions and therefore during periods of emotional pain or stress the liver will weaken which will in turn weaken the kidneys. In total, emotions, diet, age and lifestyle can affect your fertility. The key to maintaining the balance and to ensuring your body is a good environment for conception is to look after your organs, especially the liver, kidneys and spleen.
The liver is important for female fertility because of its role in the circulation of lifeblood throughout the body – including the reproductive system which relies on a supply of blood and energy. It is for this reason that Chinese Medicine understands life as taking root in the liver. Regular menstruation periods indicate healthy circulation of blood and energy from the liver whereas blockages in this circulation can lead to ammenorhea (absence of periods). If there is a shortage of energy within the liver or if its circulation is blocked then the quantity of blood during the period diminishes (the colour of the blood becomes pale) and fertility is undermined. Here, certain Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help by gently stimulating blood circulation and helping with the production of new blood and energy.
The most common subfertility diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is stagnation in the circulation of lifeblood related to a deficiency of energy within the liver and kidneys. This syndrome highlights the relationship between fertility and the body’s system of internal organs. In combination with other organs, the liver maintains circulation, supports digestion and is implicit in emotional health, and is thus vital to your well-being and your body’s fertility. For information on how Chinese Medicine can help you to have a baby, consult our guide to Overcoming Infertility.
The responsibility for detoxifying your body lies with your liver. This is one of its most important functions. The liver keeps you safe from toxins which come from food, certain medicines, alcohol and other addictive substances, while ensuring the good stuff is retained to nourish your body.
This detox process involves the liver receiving the things you put into your body and breaking them down into their chemical components. The beneficial chemicals are retained and distributed throughout the body via bloodstream that passes through the liver. The harmful, toxic chemicals are kept away from the bloodstream and broken further down by the liver making them ready for the next stage of processing towards eventual excretion.
‘I DON’T WANT TO BREAK MY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AGAIN’
You can attain your goals this year only if you look after your main internal organs and by making sure your resolutions are realistic. A balanced flow of lifeblood in the body and harmonised emotions, which can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle, are fundamental to a state of well-being where any goal can be achieved.
If being more healthy and happy is your aim this year, then make sure you take good care of your liver. Through its involvement in digestion and assimilation of food; circulation of blood and energy (all of which affect the person’s physical fitness, strength and fertility) and detoxification of blood, the liver plays a crucial role in the success of everything that your body does.
The reason why Chinese Medicine says that ‘the liver is a resolute organ’ and that it is ‘the general of the armed forces’ is because when it does its multiple jobs, making positive resolutions and persevering to achieve them can get a lot easier for your mind and body. By integrating Chinese Medicine and acupuncture into your life you give much more of the love your liver needs.
To find out more about how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can help you to look after your liver and achieve your goals, consult our doctors.