I love my body.
I didn’t always. I used to pinch and poke at it and call it bad names when it wasn’t the size I wanted it to be. But I got over that, and except for those few days of water retention that kick off my moon cycle, I’m comfortable the way I am. And I have a new favorite body part: my liver.
The human liver is amazing. Not just for its ability to leave us unscathed after a night of heavy drinking through most of our 20’s, but for the mass amounts of tasks in completes each day with finesse. Now, before I went to school for Ayurveda, I didn’t think much about my liver. I knew that it processed alcohol, that jaundice was somehow related, and that it was an organ that could be transplanted but was hard to come by (thank you, Grey’s Anatomy). And I thought it was probably about the size of a steak.
Your liver is huge. It’s shaped like a large, right-angle triangle in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen, with the ninety degree angle at about your right nipple, the long point across your chest at your left nipple, and the third point just below the bottom of your right rib cage. Not only is your liver responsible for the daily filtering of toxins from 100 gallons of blood, everyday it produces a quart of bile (stored and secreted in the gallbladder), manufactures 13,000 chemicals, stores glycogen and iron, stores vitamins, produces fat for storage, forms blood coagulants, and synthesizes amino acids and cholesterol. To name a few things. It does more.
So basically, your liver is amazing. And I realize that mine is a little run down when there is a breakout of pimples on my face, or a minor skin rash on my skin, or when I wake up with hot-flashes in the middle of the night. Why? Because the liver one of the organs governed by Pitta dosha, which controls heat in our body. The liver stores this heat, and when there’s too much (like in the summer), the liver has to get rid of it. Ayurveda has taught me that the skin is one place the liver dumps things (like heat) when it becomes over-taxed. So those rashes that show up in the summer and those extra skin sensitivities in the summer might mean that your liver is dumping heat. (Other heat symptoms include hot headaches right behind the eyes, night sweats, waking up between 11 and 2 at night, outbursts of “hot” emotions like anger).
Luckily, there are a few basic things you can do to care for your liver and help your body fight the heat of the summer.
Since the liver takes up 20% of our body’s energy, you need to give it some rest. The liver, like most of the body, does the majority of its work repairing itself between 10 pm and 2 am — the time when we’re not (hopefully) putting food in our mouths. The easiest way to love your liver is to eat a light dinner, skip your night snack (and/or night cap) and get to bed by 10 p.m. The liver is responsible for creating the enzymes needed to breakdown fats, so downing a bunch of ice cream right before bed keeps your poor liver up all night. And, since alcohol is processed in the body like fat, the liver is also responsible for the digestion of that bedtime beer.
Another thing you can do is try this refreshing Green Lemonade — freshly juiced, of course. The bitter of the greens with the sweetness of the apple help to cool and calm the liver. Add 1/2 a beet for a more liver-detoxifying effect.
In your juicer, juice the following:
1/2 a head kale, chard, spinach or other bitter green
1/2 small beet (optional)
2 stalks fennel root (optional)
Want more ideas to keep your body cool this summer? Check out this Ayurvedic Workshop about Pitta body types and how to manage heat symptoms.