Postpartum recovery using Chinese Medicine: Balancing your liver
Women’s health expert, Josie Bouchier, discusses the basics of balancing your ‘Qi’ and easing postpartum recovery.
Following on from my first piece on postpartum recovery, the next organ system that we are going to focus on bringing back into balance is the liver. In Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) in the body.
When our liver Qi is flowing smoothly, we feel relaxed, positive, we sleep more soundly, our periods are regular (when they return), we have no PMS, and no bad-for-us food cravings. We will also be less prone to liver-related issues such as mastitis and postpartum depression.
On the other hand, when our liver Qi is stagnant, we feel irritable, stressed, we might have headaches, PMS, or constipation, we wake up in the middle of the night between 1-3am, we have skin breakouts, and we crave things like chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol. These symptoms are telling us that our liver is not able to do its job of managing stress, balancing hormones, and effectively detoxifying the body.
Here are my best tips to support your liver, from a Chinese medicine point of view:
- Seek out support to lower your stress levels. As a new mama, or even a second, third, or fourth-time mama, you need support now more than ever. We were never meant to raise babies in an isolated environment. It takes a village. Hire or ask a friend or family member for help with household chores like cooking and cleaning. Ask a trusted friend or hire a qualified counselor to support and listen to you when the going gets rough. Get regular acupuncture or massage treatments. Make a list of things you can do for yourself that make you feel relaxed, nourished, and happy. Then do them as often as possible.
- Help your body detoxify. Drink a cup of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon first thing in the morning to stimulate your natural digestive enzymes and help the liver do its job of detoxifying the body. Eat veggies from the brassica family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, collard greens, and cauliflower (all lightly steamed or cooked if your digestion is not yet healed), which all help the liver detoxify and excrete excess estrogen. Take a high quality multivitamin and consider taking a high quality liver detoxification supplement that contains milk thistle. Wean yourself off caffeine and limit alcohol intake to 2-4 drinks per month if you are not breastfeeding.
- Move your body, but not to the point of exhaustion. Gently moving your body and breath will help your liver Qi to circulate and flow more smoothly. I highly recommend a gentle yoga practice or Qi Gong. Rigorous exercise or hot yoga which causes you to sweat excessively will deplete your Qi and Yin, making you feel more exhausted instead of energized, and may trigger or exacerbate menopause-like symptoms such as anxiety or night sweats. How do you know if you’re exercising too vigorously? Pay attention to how you feel after exercising. You should feel relaxed and energized, not ready for a nap.
Taking the time now to heal and bring your body back into balance will save you from experiencing more chronic health issues down the road. Prioritize your own health so you can be the best mother you can be. You are worth it, and you deserve it. As your child or children grow up, they will follow in your footsteps and take good care of themselves too.