Liver Qi Stagnation Diet

Liver Qi Stagnation is a common TCM diagnosis that is usually present when symptoms are worst with STRESS. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi in the body. When optimal, we are able to ride the waves of life and go with the flow. This free and easy flow easily gets disrupted and causes all sorts of issues including heartburn, headaches, PMS, and IBS.

Signs of Liver Qi Stagnation include tightness or distension around your ribs or your chest, frequent sighing to try to relieve this pressure, heartburn, nausea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, irritability, and PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness. It can also manifest as depression and feeling stuck.  If this stagnant qi continues to build, an internal pressure builds that will eventually need to release. This is often experienced as headaches, high blood pressure, or a raging temper.

So, how can diet alleviate this stagnation and internal pressure?

Foods the Benefit the Smooth Flow of Liver Qi

Pungent and aromatic foods help circulate and open up the qi flow. Sour foods stimulate the liver and bile, and often contain digestive enzymes and acids that help remove heaviness and stagnation. Bitter foods are often considered to be cleansing, and clear excess heat that tends to build up with stagnation. This is also why cooling foods are emphasized, and hot foods are avoided. 

pungent and aromatic foods: fresh mint, basil, marjoram, fennel, dill, lemon balm and cilantro, cardamom, cumin, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, turnips, kohlrabi,

sour foods: apple cider vinegar with honey and water (only use vinegar for short periods of time), fermented food like saurkraut, kefir, and yogurt, grapefruit, lemon, lime. cranberry and unsweetened cranberry juice

bitter herbs: dandelion root, milk thistle, chamomile

green goodness: cabbage,  cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, artichokes, wheat grass or barley grass, chlorella, nettles

sweet and relaxing: beets, strawberry, peach, cherry, carrots

revitalizing: sprouts

Foods to Avoid

deep fried or greasy foods

rich fatty sauces

rich fatty meat

hot spicy peppers and seasoning

alcohol (it temporarily moves Liver Qi and feels relaxing, but processing the alcohol can easily overwhelm the Liver and cause a worsening of stagnation. cannabis has a similar effect and should be avoided)



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