Spring is an optimal time for some gentle cleansing. In our lives, we naturally tend to clean, reorganize, lighten up our loads during the spring season and applying these actions to our internal health is also appropriate and encouraged. This is where dietary cleansing comes in. In the picture above are some of my favorite foods to use for Liver and Gall Bladder cleansing during the spring. Both the liver and gall bladder are the organs paired with Spring in the TCM Five Phase Theory, so focusing on this organ system makes sense now - especially as it is so connected to detoxification (cleaning and lightening) and the breaking down of heavier, fatty foods (hello, winter meals from last season). Over the colder months, we tend to eat heavier, hearty meals, and the liver / gall bladder can get a little bogged down from this, accumulating bile sediment or even gall stones over time (depending on the diet and person) as they try to break down these foods so frequently. Too much fat, chemicals, processed foods, intoxicants, and stress all disrupt the many nuanced biochemical processes of the liver and gall bladder. These Wood element organs of spring are often the most congested of all organs in the modern person, in fact! Radishes are one the best foods to aide the gall bladder in cleansing out these deposits and restoring optimal function to this system. Beets and beet greens are also useful, as is flax oil, flax seed, chamomile, cleavers, milk thistle, apples, pears, seaweeds, turmeric, and lemon/lime/grapefruit.
A Spring Cleanse (Adapted from Healing with Whole Foods) //
You can simply eat 1-2 radishes per day (in between meals) to gradually cleanse the gall bladder over the course of 3 weeks, or you can make a beet and radish slaw to eat daily for a few weeks if you want to get fancy. My recipe for liver/GB slaw is included here, which I hope you will try, as it makes this ritual pretty tasty. While doing this spring cleaning, lighten up the liver and gall bladder’s load by removing heavy meats, alcohol, dairy, eggs, and most nuts from your diet for a few weeks. These foods are highest in saturated fats and cholesterol which are hardest to break down for most of us (even though they carry lots of nutritional value - except alcohol, which is excluded to enable the liver to function without burden). Focus on vegetables of any kind (including those foods listed above), greens, unrefined grains, legumes, vegetarian soups, sprouts, fruits, some seeds, lean meats like fish or poultry. Drink plenty of water and 2-3 C of chamomile, cleavers, or milk thistle tea per day. These herbal teas support the liver and lymphatic system in detoxification, clear blockages and heat, and help your body get back into flow after being more stagnant over the winter. Finally, drizzle 3-5 tsp of flax oil on your food per day. This cleansing method is largely effective for gradually reducing bile sediment and cleansing the gall bladder of deposits and small stones. With a gradual cleanse like this, better movement and flow is restored, you will feel lighter, and your body will be primed for better energy and function throughout the year. A deficient or excess type person can try this cleanse as you are eating full meals each day vs. fasting. I personally love this gradual method of cleansing as it doesn’t act harshly on the body like the “gall bladder flush” you may have heard of. That purging method is best approved by your health practitioner, especially if you have never tried it before.
Beet & Radish Slaw with Preserved Lemon
1 large golden beet, sliced paper thin on a mandolin
3 large radishes, also cut on mandolin (preserve some radish greens for garnish)
1 Tbsp (or more) of finely chopped preserved lemon
1/2 large lemon, juiced (or whole small lemon)
3 Tbsp flax or olive oil
Prep the root veggies and add to mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl mix together dressing ingredients of lemon, lemon juice, salt, and oil. Adjust to your liking with additional salt or oil. Pour dressing over beet and radish mixture (you may have some left over and not need to use it all - save it, if so, for the next batch). Add a few pinches of finely chopped radish greens for garnish and stir to fully coat. Eat 1-2 spoonfuls of this mixture per day, in between meals, for a few weeks during your gradual spring cleanse. You can alternate this slaw with plain radishes for that purpose as well. Or make this anytime to give your liver and gall bladder some extra support.