Back when I was in school, we had a nutritionist who would visit us from New York (allegedly Gwyneth Paltrow is also her client) every now and then to talk to our class about how we should be fuelling our bodies to get through our daily regime of ballet classes. In addition to that, she'd fill us in on all the superfood trends and debunk all the health myths. For the week she was there, we would try to preach her word and put chia seeds in our water, while still sneaking in dessert with dinner. All about balance, right?
She would often come in the springtime and I recall her always bringing up something called spring liver. She explained spring liver as the leading cause for us feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and unwell in the springtime. She described it as the process of all the toxins we've ingested over the year, be it in junk food, alcohol, coffee, chemicals from makeup, or taking painkillers, clumping up and weighing down our livers, the body's cycle telling you it's time to take care of your liver.
Between my classmates and I, we were just teenagers who went to a ballet school, so being exhausted was part of our 24/7 experience. So I kind of thought this spring liver stuff was a bit mumbo jumbo. On top of that, I've always been a little bit skeptical about health crazes and diet fads. Even though I trusted what my nutritionist said and am always going to be a lover of kale, back then I had a hard time separating the feeling of being tired after a long day of ballet or being tired from a dirty liver.
So here I am now, at a point where I've gone several months without hours worth of ballet in my day, and I've turned into a complete sloth!
I'm in bed by 10:30 pm each day, weak in my knees and hips, a slave to my daily coffee, and am trudging through the city lifelessly. I've had no excitement for the summer, no motivation to work on my personal projects, no energy to go on with my day. I have become the walking dead. I've been moody and desolate, getting headaches and bellyaches more regularly, and have been oh so very bloated.
But what I find most puzzling is that the weather is getting warmer, the sun's coming out, I'm making sure I'm getting my Vitamin D. This behaviour is something I'd expect in the brutal winter but... the springtime??
So it came back into my mind, this topic of spring liver. I did a bit more research online to see if my symptoms lined up with a congested liver and lo and behold, they did.
To break it down for you, your liver is necessary for energy and blood flows in your body. It's normal that during the winter you ingest more of the things likely to burden your liver than usual but when the season changes, the ramifications are the build up of sludge (yuck!) in your liver, bringing on the generally unwell feeling.
Spring cleaning of course!
It's now been about four days that I've been mindful of spring liver and I already feel significantly better. My mood has been lighter, headaches have gone away, and I've gotten my motivation back (case in point: I'm writing this post on Friday instead of Monday morning!) My type A personality is FUELLED with excitement as I filled in my agenda all the way to September with summer planning. And I'm back to using as many exclamation marks as I can!!!!!!!!!!!!
So what have I done?
Not even that much. The reason why I'm not too keen on detoxes and diets is that I hate doing things that make me unhappy or make me feel like I'm depriving myself to a point where it becomes a stress in my lifestyle. I tried to go vegan once and I became miserable over reading labels at the supermarket when deep down all I wanted was a cookie. Though I do have a lot of respect to the people who honour this commitment. I am however, and have been for nearly four years, a vegetarian which for me isn't as taxing because I never really liked eating meat to begin with.
That being said, I do believe that we're being fed a lot of crap in our capitalist society, much of which I am often happily spoon-fed. So here's what I've done differently in my day (though I will encourage you to do more research to see what will suit your lifestyle personally).
1. I stopped drinking coffee.
I've stopped drinking coffee! Gasps! This is hard work, but I try to take mini breaks from coffee often. I don't want to get too addicted to it and I'm still a relatively new coffee drinker (maybe I'll tell the story of my coffee journey some day). While this may not be linked to liver health (as Dr. Mercola points out, coffee is good for you!), I do find that when I do a coffee cleanse, it affects how I feel. I don't like being dependent on coffee. I like to have really good coffee, but not out of necessity.
2. I cut out all processed foods.
Especially that sugar for me. I can't really go a full day without my chocolate bar but I've tried to make my own little treats to replace this. I make homemade peanut butter cups. I melt coconut oil and mix it with pure maple syrup, cocoa powder, and a little bit of salt, which gives me chocolate! Then I put dollops in muffin tins, freeze it for a couple minutes, slather PB on, and put on another coat of chocolate and let it freeze some more. It's simple and delicious and probably a lot better for your liver because you can at least see that you're not putting in high fructose corn syrup.
3. I stopped taking pills and any supplements.
I don't take that many to begin with, but it's still an important part of the cleanse as capsules and tablets and medications can harm your liver in high dosages. I've always, even as a dancer, avoided taking painkillers and the sorts because, similar to coffee, I don't like to be dependent.
4. I'm drinking lots of dandelion tea!
Dandelion root is supposed to be very good for your liver! Apparently so is milk thistle and turmeric. Maybe I'll try those next.
5. Water, all the time. And less alcohol.
Never not the answer.
6. Trying to eat more raw veggies.
I'm being extra mindful as to how many vegetables I eat in a day and exactly how I eat them. They say that leafy greens are especially good for your liver cleanse, which is great because as I've mentioned above, I loooove kale. But I also love to stick it on the pan and sautée it with olive oil and garlic. I'm trying to eat more of it in its raw form, even though it's slightly less delicious, so that I can get maximum nutrients out of it.
Truthfully, I'm not sure how long I'll go on with this. Probably until I feel good enough again. Life is about balance. Everything in moderation. And you shouldn't deprive yourself from something that makes you happy. Spring cleaning is always a good answer, we need it for our closets, but also for our bodies too. Our bodies get put through quite a lot, so we shouldn't be surprised when it starts to signal at us that it needs some help.