Macrobiotic Perspectives and Diagnosis of the Liver

Lino Stanchich, L.N., L.M.B.T.

He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is wise.
Lao-tzu- Tao te Ching (6th century BC)

Reflection and self-exploration can lead to greater awareness and greater understanding of, not only ourselves, but also other people in our world. "Know Thyself" the ancient Socratic advice, is as true today as in early Greece. Our own life and our health may often seem a complex, confusing or nebulous mystery. In our quest to comprehend ourselves and Nature, many paths, theories, and tools are available. One of the most powerful and effective methods of observing and comprehending the human body and health is the ancient art of visual diagnosis, available through the study of Macrobiotics.

We have the ability to understand a great deal about our condition, and our life. Our body is a miraculous creation, composed of influences from our ancestors, environment, and the entire universe. Many factors of nature create our physical, mental, and emotional health. The art of visual diagnosis is not only fascinating to learn and empowering to practice, it's conscientious application is vital for humanity to gain understanding of the human conditions and to seize personal responsibility for the creation of lifelong wellness. Let us learn about the liver and how to use methods of visual diagnosis and common symptoms to read signs about this vital, hard-working, and miraculous organ.

We all know we have a liver, but have you learned the miraculous functions of this vital organ? Located on the right side of the body, the liver extends across the upper torso above the intestines and is adjacent to the gall bladder, pancreas, and stomach. The liver is the largest organ of the body, next to the size of the skin, and is the only organ that can completely regenerate itself if a portion is removed. Its compact structure and central location make it a yang compact and more dense organ in macrobiotic theory.

Known in Macrobiotic theory and Traditional Chinese Medicine as the "General" or organizer of the body, the liver performs hundreds of vital functions including blood detoxification, making and transporting bile, controlling blood sugar levels, storing blood, and converting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In macrobiotic theory, the liver greatly influences the reproductive organs as well. Working in harmony with the gall bladder, the liver has also been called the body's "Environmental Protection Agency." Due to its multitude of functions and influences, the liver plays a very important role in the development and prevention of all diseases. A healthy liver can improve your relationships, as well as extend and enhance your life.

Macrobiotic Diagnosis of the liver is invaluable in the prevention and comprehension of health disorders and disease. Symptomatic and visual signs of liver imbalance, stagnation, or irritation can include: Pain or swelling, tightness or soreness in the liver area, migraine headaches, muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, leg pain, tension in the mid-back or back of the neck, or nausea. Using visual diagnosis, vertical lines between the eyebrows reveal liver stagnation, hardness, contraction, and imbalance. If our eyes become itchy or have yellow coloration on the iris, or if one develops cataracts, blindness, eyesight disorders, especially in the right eye, these are signs of liver malfunction. Gout, ingrown toenails, thick calluses under and on a big toe, bunions on feet, and yellow coloration on the face and/or feet indicate liver malfunction.

Our skin also reveals our liver health. Yellow coloration in complexion may indicate jaundice, directly related to the liver. In addition, brown patches on the cheeks, rough texture, excess oiliness, pimples, cysts, dark spots and moles on the skin reflect liver and digestion disorders. We can look further to other areas of our body. Hair loss in the central region of the head, white or grey hair, spider veins and varicose veins on the legs relate to liver stagnation and disorder. Frequent self-examination is highly recommended.

Additional indications of liver imbalance include chronic disorganization or sloppiness in one's home, auto, and workspace. Restless sleep, especially waking between 1:00 am and 3:00 am reflects liver disorder as do PMS symptoms and menopausal hot flashes. Grouchiness, especially in the morning, along with chronic dissatisfaction and complaining indicate liver malfunction, as does a voice that is generally shouting, harsh, loud, and demanding. If one is typically skeptical or cynical, has a chip on the shoulder, experiences frequent bursts of irritability, anger, road rage and violence, one is wise to seek ways to heal the liver.

Foods and substances that stress and harm the liver include excess meats, eggs, hydrogenated fats, deep fried foods, greasy foods, fatty foods, dairy products (especially hard, salted cheeses), excess roasted seeds, any nuts, and even soy cheeses. Baked goods, toasted, hard, dry foods (chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, rice cakes) highly tax the liver. Greasy foods such as nut butters, saturated fats, rancid oils also can harm our liver. For liver health, avoid refined sugar, sugar substitutes, alcohol, coffee, chemicals, and drugs. Yang foods such as meat, cheese, and salt create cravings for yin foods such as alcohol, sugar, and fats, cause harm to the liver.

Cooking techniques greatly affect our health. For a better functioning liver, avoid deep frying (tempura), frying, baked, roasted, toasted, blackened, grilled, burned, the use of rancid oil, overheated oil, as well as excess pressure cooking and excess salt. Avoid eating the same foods each day. Rather, prepare a colorful, fresh variety of foods that specifically benefit the liver. Prepare grain and bean salads with a garnish such as sliced scallions or flavored with lemon. Depending on your climate and condition, you may favor cooking methods such as boiling, blanching, light cooking, adding vegetables to your grains, and making pressed and raw salads. Avoid icy cold foods and beverages as they hamper liver function. As you eat, chew very well for best health of the entire body and overall digestion. Do not overeat.

If your liver condition or anger levels are seriously imbalanced, it may be necessary that you receive professional assistance to guide you through your healing process; among these are macrobiotic consultation, acupuncture, medical, massage/bodywork, psychological, nutritional, and exercise. Also seek the advice of a macrobiotic counselor for a personalized lifestyle program. Other suggestions for a healthy liver are: Meditation, prayer and laughter, relaxation, Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung; express yourself through talking, counseling, singing, journal keeping.

The ancient Japanese and Chinese symbol for anger, "kan shaku," is written with two characters translated as "liver pains or disease." The Europeans often term an angry person as "liverish." According to Chinese Medicine and macrobiotic theory, our liver controls the emotion of anger. Crimes of violence, abuse, domestic violence, disruptive behavior, aggression among people and nations are all related to imbalances of the liver. When we balance and heal our liver, we often will experience a reduction in and control over our anger, thus helping our relationships in our personal and professional lives to make this a more peaceful world.

Several simple, yet profoundly important recommendations to create a healthy liver, reduce anger, and strengthen the body are:

  1. Eat a balanced and pleasing macrobiotic diet.
  2. While eating, sit down, relax, and chew well.
  3. Eat a moderate quantity without overeating.
  4. Avoid eating three hours before bed.
  5. Avoid napping immediately after eating.
  6. Exercise regularly and moderately outdoors.
  7. Practice Do-In Self-Massage daily
  8. Give yourself whole body scrubs
  9. Practice stretching of the muscles daily.
  10. Keep a clean and orderly home.
  11. Plan your life well each day and for the future.
  12. Cultivate peace, joy and forgiveness in your relationships and your life.

May you and your family achieve a happier, healthier through a healthier liver.

Further Reading Recommendations:

  1. How to See Your Health, The Book of Oriental Diagnosis by Michio Kushi
  2. The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health, Michio Kushi and Alex Jack
  3. Your Face Never Lies, Michio Kushi
  4. Lino Stanchich's Essential Macrobiotic Recipes

Lino Stanchich is a Licensed Nutritionist, author, international macrobiotic educator and counselor with over 45 years experience. A frequent faculty member of the Kushi Institute Conference, Mr. Stanchich was awarded the 2006 Aveline Kushi Award, and was granted membership in the Macrobiotic Educators Association by Michio Kushi. Author of the popular books, Power Eating Program, You Are How You Eat, Macrobiotic Healing Secrets, and Natural Kidney Health Program, and Lino Stanchich's Essential Macrobiotic Recipes, this multi-lingual and inspiring teacher created "Healing Mealtime Music," "LAUGH for the Health of It," audios and the dynamic acupressure exercise video, "Energize Yourself!" Mr. Stanchich, with his wife, Jane, present dynamic macrobiotic seminars worldwide through

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