Last week I wrote a post on supporting your lymphatic system. (If you haven’t had a chance yet it would be worth reading it now!) I also wrote a page on disclaimers which should have just sat quietly in this blog’s background ready to refer to when necessary, but which I accidentally published as a post. Consequently some of you will have received a rather noisy email out of the blue – which must have seemed a bit over excitable out of context but was really just meant to cover myself in these times of internet health blog hysteria! If I’ve learnt anything about researching health online, it’s that I’m in the fabulous position of choosing whether I utilise the information I find or not. It ain’t no-one’s responsibility whether I try out a recipe, diet, exercise, detox technique or whatever but my own. OK, enough of this – who wants some more tips on how to support your detox pathways?!
One of your liver’s roles in the detox process is to chemically break down fat soluble toxins into water soluble toxins that can then be flushed away via the digestive or urinary systems. It can easily get overwhelmed so gradually cutting down on food and drinks that cause it stress is a good idea. Alcoholic drinks, caffeine, sugar, trans-fats and artificial additives all keep your liver busy. Give it a bit of a break, find a way to limit your consumption of all the above.
The traditional Chinese health system, known as Chinese Five Elements (C5E), links liver energy with anger or irritation; these emotions come under the element of “Wood”. Finding yourself inappropriately angry or having an inability to show anger and bottling things up instead can indicate an overworked liver. Misdirected rage is considered to be damaging to your liver energy itself. It can be a very aggressive cycle (pun intended!).
Do you suffer with an imbalance of Wood energy? Are your anger manifestations usually directed at the origin of the frustration that led to the tantrum? (Sorry, even that sentence is a bit frustrating!) If you are honest about it, probably not!
Remember the call-centre employee on the other end of the phone that you yelled at last week? Was it actually their fault that you were angry? Is it possible that they are just being paid a minimal wage to deal with several people screaming in their ear every day because of a company mistake or policy that they had nothing to do with? However justified you felt releasing your anger, did you feel like a better person afterwards? How did you feel physically? Bit shaky? Headache? Migraines frequently arise from a stressed liver.
When you exploded at a family member for making you late this morning, might you have handled things differently if you’d had an early night last night and been clearer about what time you needed to leave the house this morning? Did your explosion improve the day for anyone? Or did you find yourself feeling both mentally and physically rigid in justifying your behaviour to yourself? Wood energy governs the tendons and ligaments. It is characterised by the treelike ability to either gracefully bend or dryly snap in the wind (metaphorically speaking of course).
When you stuffed a packet of biscuits into your mouth the other night (because you’ve been angry with a situation but don’t know how to deal with it) did you feel better for it? Did it resolve anything? Did you end up with something akin to a hangover the next day? Hangovers result from an overworked liver, so you get a double whammy – the unresolved anger and the biscuit overload.
When you last ranted at a friend or colleague about whatever was making you angry, because you trust them to understand and support you, did they leave the conversation seeming like they had benefited from the exchange or did you set them up to feel angry on your behalf? You can’t expect that “a problem shared is a problem halved” if you are only interested in letting off steam. All you do is share the anger. If you want to share a problem you need to be clear with yourself that often the only solution is to change your own attitude.
You might not recognise any of the above scenarios in your own life, but if you do then you’ll have a good idea of what traditional Chinese health practitioners refer to as Liver energy. It’s worth knowing at this point that anger and irritation often crop up more than usual during a detox as your liver deals with that backlog of rubbish that your cells have released. Next time you notice that you are displaying symptoms such as getting snappy and worked up try at least one or even all of the following:
- Have a safe and private tantrum. You’ve seen toddlers doing this so you know what it entails. Lie on a bed or sofa, punch the pillows, scream and roar for all you are worth. My normally placid eldest daughter does this a couple of times a year and always comes back downstairs with a smile. (An added bonus is that it makes the rest of the family laugh and is therefore a great stress reliever for everyone!)
- Do the breathing exercise I gave you a few weeks ago.
- Have a drink of water. In C5E your liver energy’s ability to remain flexible requires hydration in the same way that a tree needs water to remain flexible so that it bends in the wind rather than snaps.
You may not have solved the issue of what made you angry, but if you are now less blinded by irritation and/or rage you are in a stronger position to effectively deal with the original issue. It’s a win-win! It’s important to know, appreciate and remember that while you are not always in a position to control the triggers that make you angry, it is always your choice how you deal with that anger.
Your digestive system is something that we will be covering in some detail in a few weeks. In the meantime you might like to know that while your body absorbs nutrients from your small intestines, it re-absorbs water from your large intestines. If you are dehydrated your body will need to re-absorb more water from your bowel. Think about it. Another glass of water anyone?
Ground flaxseed/linseed or whole, soaked chia seeds are both a fantastic form of fibre as they provide a kind of internal cleanse, tone and moisturise effect. You can take one to two tablespoons daily to gently sweep waste through and out of the gut (do a bit of research first if you suffer from conditions such as diverticulitis). Drinking them with a SuperSmoothie is ideal, but you can also sprinkle them over cereals and add to cake mixes (you might need to experiment with the fluid to seed ratio to avoid a rubbery texture though). Meanwhile, wheat bran and any of its over-the-counter laxative derivatives are irritating to the gut. Imagine using a wire brush rather than a broom to clean your colon and you get the picture. At best things might move quicker than before, at worst your gut may become inflamed and so actually slow your transit time still further. In addition, bran contains phytic acid which can bind to some of the essential minerals you consume, making them unavailable for absorption.
And yes, of course plenty of vegetables can help speed gut transit time, you didn’t need me to tell you that. But did you know that good, clean fats can also keep things moving? Try adding coconut oil, MCT oil, and butter to your diet to, for want of a better phrase, oil the machinery!
Any type of exercise that moves, rotates and/or stretches your torso is great for stimulating the large intestine. Walking, yoga, sex, dancing, or even just a couple of minutes daily of large hip-circles (like slow, exaggerated hula-hooping) will help to ensure regular bowel movements.
Many people are unaware of the important work their lungs do. Your cardiovascular (blood) system picks up breathed-in oxygen from your lungs and carries it to every single cell in your body, and then carries unwanted carbon dioxide back so that your lungs can expel it when you next breathe out. Without enough oxygen your cells would mutate and/or die. Got to love your lungs! When you have a respiratory infection and find yourself coughing up stuff that makes your friends and colleagues start to avoid you, that’s your lungs taking on some of the strain of the detox process. Lungs don’t want that, they’ve got enough to do. Here are a few ways you can help to relieve them of the small print in their job description so that they can be more effective doing what they are good at:
- Limit your exposure to the following common air pollutants: non eco-friendly household cleaning products, “air-fresheners,” cosmetics such as perfume, nail varnish/remover, hair removal creams; high VOC paints, new carpet backing, MDF etc.
- Open all your windows wide for a few minutes each day, or keep a window in each room open a crack all the time, especially at night.
- Invest in lots of house plants to soak up air pollutants.
- Do my breathing exercise.
- Keep remembering to breathe through your nose as it has a more sophisticated system of filtering out airborne toxins than your mouth. And it looks better; you don’t want to resemble a dog with its tongue hanging out while you are out and about.
OK my lovelies, gotta go. I’ve got an eleven year old with chicken pox to semi-bundle up and deposit in the garden to soak up some fresh air and vitamin D. She couldn’t have picked a better time of year for it; we are forcast a few days of glorious sunshine but the temperature is low enough not to irritate those spots and blisters further. Catch you on the flip side!