According to Chinese medicine, you might need a spring cleanse if you experience any of the following symptoms in the spring: headaches, increased acne, irritability, blurred vision, anger, and urinary tract infections.
Chinese medicine teaches that these symptoms emerge when the heat you have built inside your body to keep you warm in the winter needs to be released. If you do not release the heat efficiently, you will experience these problems among others.
So why are you experiencing these symptoms at the end of January or February? Look at and listen to nature, and you will see that spring begins before March. Trees are budding, birds change their song and start to migrate, and the days grow longer. Nature has her own spring cleanse.
The Chinese medicine lunar calendar captures this cycle, with spring starting in January or February and ending in April or May.
Just like the trees prepare to blossom and bulbs to burst forth, your body is ready to grow. Keep reading to learn more about what spring means for your health and happiness.
How a spring cleanse will keep you healthy
Chinese medicine uses nature and analogy to help you understand your body. One important analogy is Five Elements Theory. Ancient Chinese scholars associated each season with one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Then, over thousands of years of observation and case studies, they described ways to live in alignment with the seasons and their elements.
As a result of their research, they linked the Wood element with springtime. Wood, which refers to all plant life, represents growth and change, flexibility, and bursting forth with new life. Spring embodies these characteristics.
Since your body is a microcosm for the natural world, it also bursts forth with new growth in the spring. Energy is rising after staying inside to keep you warm in the winter.
Here is where the spring cleanse comes in.
Imagine a tea kettle that you set to boil. At first the water is content to stay in the kettle as it builds energy from the heat. Eventually, the heat is so strong that the water changes from liquid to liquid and gas. The gas needs a place to go, and steam escapes from the top, filling your kitchen with the loud whistle of the kettle.
Your liver is the kettle generating heat to purge the body of toxins. This heat is rising and has to escape. If it cannot, you will experience symptoms such as those listed above: headaches, urinary tract infections, rashes, acne, anger, irritability, blurred vision, and more.
A spring cleanse for the Liver
The liver and gallbladder are the organs associated with spring in Chinese medicine. They play a crucial role in helping you release the heat mentioned above. Unlike liver disease in the west, Chinese medicine looks for signs of liver imbalance before serious disease sets in. One of the main symptoms of liver imbalance is anger.
Consequently, the angrier you feel from a liver imbalance, the more you harm this organ system! You need to pay attention to early signs of frustration and use diet and lifestyle choices to calm yourself to bring our liver back into balance.
Balancing Yin and Yang
Yin energy is your cool, calming energy. Yang energy is your warm, active energy.
If you look at the yin and yang symbol, spring is the growing sliver of white at the bottom of the symbol. It emerges from the cold yin energy of winter.
Your goal is to maintain this yin and yang balance. You need to ensure the liver and gallbladder clear growing heat to stay balanced.
You have two important tools to balance this energy. Food and exercise.
What to eat for your spring cleanse
The following foods will help you clear excess yang heat. You will eliminate migraines, sleep better, prevent rashes and acne, and boost your immune system to keep you healthy during spring's constantly changing weather.
The color associated with the liver, the wood element, and spring is green. Green foods will help your liver and gallbladder system detoxify the body and clear heat as part of your spring cleanse. Eating lots of leafy green vegetables is a great start. They should be lightly cooked, especially if you are over 50.
In addition to greens, because you need to cool your body, you should eat:
- more sweet food, less sour food.
- less oily food
- foods warm in temperature and energetic nature
- fewer foods cold in temperature and energetic nature, such as bananas and pears
- dates, which tonify your blood and spleen and strengthen them against attack from liver heat as it works hard during this season
Detailed food list for your spring cleanse
Eat cooked greens and sprouts
Cooked greens and sprouts cleanse and cool the body. They also help release inner heat. Make sure they are lightly cooked.
- Fresh parsley
- Soybean sprouts – any kind of sprouts are good
Eat bitter foods
These foods help improve your heart functioning and prepare the heart for the challenges of summer heat.
- Bitter melon
- Lotus seed
Avoid sour tasting foods early in the spring
Sour foods encourage liver fire (for now think of it as internal heat) and irritate the stomach. If you are a feeling emotional, a little bit of sour food can help you calm down.
- Mandarin oranges
- Pickled foods
- Cultured foods and drinks sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.
Eat sweet foods and pungent foods
Sweet and pungent foods cool and strengthen the body after winter. Especially when you are angry, eat sweet food. When you are angry the liver over attacks the spleen and sweet can tonify the spleen.
- Bamboo Shoots
- Black rice
- Sweet Cherries
- Chinese leek
- Chinese yam
- Coriander (Also known as Cilantro)
- Lychee fruit
Eat foods with nourishing calories
If you live in a region that has a later spring rainy or snowy season, eat more nourishing calories during this time. Your body absorbs calories better in the morning, so your breakfast in the spring should include some of the choices listed below. Supper should be your lightest meal, always, with the fewest calories.
- Fish with scales (but less seafood)
- Meat – some red meat is good
- Soy (tonifies the Liver)
Learn more about how and why these foods are great for your spring cleanse in the Radiant Shenti Spring Movement Challenge.
Qigong exercises for your spring cleanse
Movement clears stagnant qi and blood in your lymph system, helping the liver and gallbladder detoxify the body with greater ease.
Below are two qigong sequences that will help you strengthen your liver and gallbladder. These organs will then be able to safely detoxify your body.
Join us for the Radiant Shenti Spring Movement Challenge to learn more qigong exercises that are perfect for your spring cleanse.
We hope you enter spring with a different understanding of your body and how it relates to the natural world. You have learned (or been reminded) that:
- Your body needs to release Yang heat that was essential during the winter.
- The foods you eat help bring your body into balance for health and wellness this spring.
- The exercises you do will help you release heat and balance yin and yang in your body.
- Some people may suffer from greater anger during this season. Adjusting their diet will help them release some of the heat affecting the liver and allow them to let go of their anger.