In a previous article, I explained the function of the Liver in Chinese Medicine philosophy. The proper functioning of the Liver, from a Chinese medicine point of view, is probably the most important factor in ensuring our physical and emotional health.
So, what can cause a disruption in the free flow of Liver energy? Stress, anger, resentment and repressed frustrations in life will do it every time! These emotions, when experienced for a prolonged period of time, will cause the Liver Qi to stagnate. Diet and lifestyle, in particular the excessive consumption of spicy or greasy foods and the use of alcohol and nicotine, will contribute to or aggravate a Liver imbalance by generating heat in the body.
The phenomenon of Liver Qi Stagnation is probably the most common condition that I see in my clinic.
When the Liver energy is stuck, physically, we experience a feeling of distension in the chest, which the body attempts to relieve by sighing. Often there is discomfort just below the ribcage along the path of the Liver meridian. Hiccups may be due to the Liver Qi stagnating in the diaphragm. Because of the close relationship of the Liver and Gallbladder, neck and shoulder tension are common along the path of the Gallbladder meridian. Because a branch of the Liver meridian ascends to the top of the head, vertex headaches are common.
Emotionally, we feel irritable and depressed or have pronounced mood swings when the Liver Qi is stuck. The Liver channel also flows to the throat, so the feeling of a lump in the throat that is worse when stressed, called plum-pit qi in Chinese medicine, is attributed to Liver Qi stagnation.
Because the energy is predominant in the Liver meridian between 1 and 3 a.m. according to the Chinese medicine body clock, people with a Liver imbalance often will wake up habitually during this time and not be able to fall back asleep.
Menstrual irregularities almost always have a Liver imbalance element due to the Liver’s function of storing Blood. Irregular periods, painful periods, breast tenderness and PMS are common symptoms.
Because of the Liver’s regulatory effect on the Qi of the Stomach and Spleen, digestive complaints are common. Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea and abdominal distention may be due to a Liver imbalance affecting the Stomach or Spleen.
Tendon problems may be due to the Liver failing to properly nourish them. Many of my patients with carpal tunnel and plantar fasciitis have other Liver issues. Stiff neck and muscle cramps may be related to the Liver.
Dry eyes, floaters, poor night vision or other eye issues may be related to the function of the Liver in Chinese medicine.
The Liver, in Chinese medicine has a relationship with wind. Not only does environmental wind worsen symptoms of a Liver imbalance, but Chinese medicine believes that Wind may be generated internally due to a prolonged Liver disharmony. Clinical symptoms of Wind are tremors, tics, vertigo and in extreme cases, stroke.
Stress reduction is crucial to keeping the Liver in balance. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to relax the body and move the Liver Qi to maintain health.