Liver disorders are a very common problem and many people get scared when they find out through blood tests or other reasons that their Liver function has decreased.
They are frightened as they do not realise that Liver problems can be helped and what they can do themselves to improve their Liver function, besides medical attention. In this article I am going to share the knowledge of how to look after your Liver better with the knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
1. What does the liver do for our body?
(i) Balance circulation:
A few thousands years ago Chinese Medicine considered the Liver to be located on the right hypochondriac region of the body. It stores the blood, especially at night-time when we are resting. It also helps the blood flow throughout the body.
(ii) Aids digestion:
The Liver is involved in digestion by helping transportation and absorption of food.
(iii) Dominates certain emotions:
The Liver is associated with the emotions of anger, depression and anxiety. Stress is also a part of Liver issues.
(iv) Nourishes tendons, joints, eyes and nails
(v) Liver channel covers certain areas of the body:
Hypochondriac area, inside of the legs and pubic area.
According to the functions above if there is a problem with the Liver it will show certain symptoms that relate to this.
2. Common types of liver disorders in the clinic
When we have someone who comes to the clinic with a Liver disorder, we will use our Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis methods to find out exactly which part of the Liver is affected (such as Liver Qi, Liver Blood, Liver Yin, Liver Yang and Liver Stagnation). In Chinese Medicine we believe that everybody’s constitution is different, so when a Liver problem occurs it may manifest differently in different people. I will go through the common Liver disorders that we encounter in the clinic.
i) Liver Stagnation syndrome (Qi and Blood):
This type of Liver disorder is becoming more and more common in society today due to increased stress and fast paced lifestyle, and family and personal issues. All of these issues will affect the Liver function and cause Liver Qi and Blood stagnation. Stagnation is where the Qi and Blood of the body becomes stuck in certain areas and cannot flow properly. These people may experience the following symptoms: stiffness and pain of the neck and shoulders, frequent headaches or migraines, fullness or pain in the abdominal or hypochondriac area, lack of energy, insomnia, depression, stress, very emotional, easily upset, sluggish bowel movements, period pain and severe PMS symptoms. Some cases we have seen in the clinic with the above symptoms have presented to us with a western medical diagnosis of the following diseases: high cholesterol, fatty liver, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid problems, endometriosis, PMS, and depression.
ii) Liver Heat syndrome:
This type of Liver disorder is due to too much heat building up in the Liver, which causes a problem with the Liver function. In the clinic my patients always ask me “where is the Liver heat coming from?” The common causes of Liver Heat are: long term stress, eating hot and spicy food, drinking too much alcohol, certain medications and heat from other organs transferring to the Liver.
These type of Liver disorders may have abnormal Liver function test results or fatty liver. These people may experience the following symptoms: red face, body feels hot, perspires easily, very emotional, insomnia, excessive dreams, constipation or sluggish bowel movements, bloating in the abdomen, flatulence with a strong odour, heartburn, acid regurgitation, uncomfortable and pain around the hypochondriac area, irregular menstruation (usually shorter cycle) in women and premature ejaculation in men. Some cases we have seen in the clinic with the above symptoms have presented to us with a western medical diagnosis of the following diseases: high blood pressure, migraine headaches, hyperactive thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome and severe menopausal syndrome.
iii) Liver Deficiency syndrome (Yin and Blood):
This is where there is a weakness in the Liver. As we mentioned above, the Liver stores the blood. The blood supports the whole body’s circulation, as well as the Liver itself. If the Liver Blood or Yin is weaker Liver function test results may be abnormal, and sometimes iron levels are lower. These people may experience the following symptoms: dryness, burning or itching of the eyes, nails become thin and break easily, hair is dry, weak and thin and falls out easily, dry skin, stiff joints, insomnia, sleep is not solid (waking throughout the night), lack of energy and scanty menstruation in women.
iv) Other reasons:
Besides the common syndromes mentioned, there are other types of Liver disorders also which we have seen in the clinic. To find out your individual cause, your Chinese Medicine practitioner which check your pulse, tongue, signs and symptoms by traditional diagnosis methods.
3. What can you do to help your Liver?
Traditional chinese medicine believes that Liver disorders need to be helped by western medicine, chinese herbs and acupuncture, but there are things you can do with your lifestyle and certain foods to help your Liver recover. Here are my suggestions of what you can do when you have a Liver disorder:
i) Check your Liver with your GP regularly.
ii) Find an experienced traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to diagnose the cause and type of your Liver disorder. Your practitioner may prescribe certain treatments (Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture or cupping) in cooperation with your western medicine GP to balance your Liver. The treatment will not only help the Liver itself, but will also help resolve the other symptoms that we mentioned above.
iii) Rebalance your lifestyle, including work commitments and stress. If you have personal emotional issues which you feel you cannot solve yourself you should consider seeking some counselling or psychological therapy to help you.
iv) Suitable exercise is important. I suggest if you have a Liver disorder that it is best to avoid strenuous heavy and fast exercise. Suitable exercise includes walking at a moderate pace for thirty minutes, swimming, yoga, tai chi, bicycle riding at a moderate pace and dancing with soft gentle music. If possible it is best to perform the exercise mentioned outdoors in nature, as the colour green helps the Liver also.
v) Music therapy: More often listening to soft music in the background or with meditation helps the Liver.
vi) Diet therapy: Chinese medicine diet therapy considers that the following foods help the Liver: celery, carrots, coriander, green tea, chrysanthemum tea, peppermint tea, oranges, bananas, lemons and more (if you would like to know more details about this area please check my diet therapy articles).
vii) Avoid drinking alcohol.
Most Liver disorders can be helped, especially at the early stage, with correct and regular treatment. I hope this article has helped and that you can have a healthy Liver throughout your entire life!