Surely Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday has no links to Traditional Chinese Medicine, right? Wrong! This time of year with the emergence of spring is linked to the liver and gallbladder in TCM. It is a time of awakening from winter where we have traditionally eaten warming foods, fatty foods and foods that would sustain us through the long winter months.
Of course in our modern day we have no need to put on weight to see us through the winter months but we still do it by over indulging at Christmas and by feeling the need to eat warmer comfort foods. Everything comes around in cycles and we do things for a reason even if we don’t realise this.
We often see spring beginning and start to think about getting that bikini body prepped (trust me, I haven’t had a bikini body for 40 years but I still begin to think about those holidays that might be coming up! Not this year of course!). But this is a natural cycle of events not just something we do for the holidays, it is what nature guides us to do. But going on a diet just brings extra stress and cortisol to your body which is not healthy for anyone. However if we use a holistic approach we will feel much better and maybe even shed a few pounds – win, win!
This is something that I am starting to realise at the age of 57. Diets have never worked for me but what if I ditch the diet and try to follow the TCM principles to food? Using food to heal the body has to be preferable to starvation right? In TCM we advise to make small swaps with food not a total change to how we eat. We look at what the body needs not what it wants and by making one or two swaps its easy to do long term.
So during this time of the liver and gallbladder season (spring) lets consider what we can swap out to improve our health. The liver processes all of the food we eat and the drink we consume. It detoxes and metabolises everything that passes through our body, food, drink, tobacco, pollution, even medication.
In Chinese Medicine the liver links to springtime and regeneration so at this time of year, Lent, we often give up something that your liver will thank you for! It gives your liver time to clear out the toxins and for the gallbladder to get to work producing bile. Therefore clearing out fats that have been stored up over winter is really important right now. So there it is! This is how TCM links to pancake day.
So what can we swap out over the next few months instead of abstaining or giving something up like we usually do? Over winter we create heat in our bodies with our foods to keep us warm. But with the change in the weather this heat needs to be gone or it could lead to inflammation and then pain. We need to begin to cool down our bodies slowly and the best way to do that is with food. This is why in the summer months we eat salads and cold foods. So right now you could begin to introduce some raw uncooked food into your diet with all of the wonderful vegetables that will be coming up. Try swapping cream and butter with coconut oil and coconut milk in stews and curries, try thinly sliced courgettes, carrots and peppers tossed in a little lemon juice and olive oil in place of your cooked vegetables.
Instead of this time of year being a time of denial and abstention, see it as trying out new things, adding in new food and meals to your day. You don’t need to eradicate the things you love just balance these out with lots of fresh vegetables. Get your liver working at a super pace to boost your metabolism. Your Liver and Gallbladder will thank you for it!