Modern culture is Yang obsessed. We go-go-go, we seek sun, we burn the candle at both ends, we exercise vigorously, and we love stimulants. It is a rare bird that has enough quiet, meditative alone time, in a dim or dark environment. This is the Yin state – nourishing, moistening, dark, and quiet – Yin builds what Yang wears down.
Every organ of the body has a Yin and a Yang aspect. Some organs (Spleen, Liver, Heart, and Lung for example) are naturally more Yin in Nature. Other organs (Stomach, Gall Bladder, Small Intestine and Large Intestine for example) are more Yang in nature. These “natures” were determined by the functions each organ enact as well as more energetic attributes. Supporting the natural state of each organ will optimize health, and promote healthy functioning.
Much is said about detoxifying the Liver, and reducing its Yang (brought on by alcohol, drugs and stimulants) but what happens when you actually have deficient Liver Yin that needs to be nourished? Stripping an already deficient organ will create further disharmony that will eventually manifest as pathology.
A diagnosis of Liver Yin deficiency means that this aspect of the Liver organ network is compromised. The Liver not only detoxifies, it has many other (building) jobs including cholesterol metabolism, vitamin storage, bile production, and blood reservoir. Blood is a Yin substance (all fluids are yin) and many B12 and iron anemias can be diagnosed early on as a Liver Yin deficiency by a trained Acupuncturist. Thin brittle nails, anemia, sallow skin, easy bruising, hair loss, blurred vision, tinnitus, dizziness, infertility and some tremors are all associated with a Liver Yin deficiency diagnosis.
Nutrition is one of the best ways to support and recover Liver Yin. A diet that is nutrient rich and nourishing is essential, as is sitting down to relax while you eat and chewing thoroughly to savor flavors. The diet should also include plenty of fluids, especially in the form of soups. Meals consist of 40% easily digested complex carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy root vegetables. Another 40% of the diet is cooked vegetables. Proteins comprise 10-20% of the diet, with a focus on high quality organic or grass fed sources. Healthy fats fill the other remaining 5-10%.
Below is a list of recommended foods to nourish Liver Yin. Do not limit your nutritional intake to only these foods. Instead follow the guidelines above of the optimum ratios of carbohydrates, vegetables and proteins, and add the recommended foods from the list below within your meals. Where ever possible choose organically grown foods to avoid genetically modified ingredients.
Foods to Nourish Liver Yin Deficiency
Zucchini, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans, beets,
Mushrooms including wood ears & tremella,
Tomatoes, spinach, carrots, parsley,
Apples, banana, mulberries, mango, coconut, peaches, lychee fruit, melons,
Grapes, raisins, cherries, plums
Olive oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil
Vegemite, kelp, spirulina, wheatgrass
Oats, rice, millet, barley
Adzuki beans, black beans, mung beans
Organic cow, goat and sheep yogurt
Tempeh, tofu, miso
Nuts & seeds, black sesame seeds (great as a condiment!)
Pork, chicken, Chinese black boned chicken, duck
Mackerel, sardines, oysters, mussels, clams
Cuttlefish, squid, perch, eel
Foods to Restrict or Avoid
Chilies, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, onions, shallots, leeks, basil, cloves, wasabi
Coffee, black tea
Lamb, shrimp, veal
Activities that build whole-body Yin nourishment are also encouraged while working specifically on Liver Yin. Rest more. Read. Spend some quiet, alone contemplative time in a cool, dark room with a candle lit (taking a bath is a nice way to do this.) Exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga are more Yin building than Yang in nature. Drink warm water and lemon. Get extra sleep. Breathe.
Clinical Handbook Of Internal Medicine, Vol. 2. MacLean & Lyttleton. University of Western Sydney: Australia. 2002.
Chinese Dietary Therapy. Liu, J. Churchill Livingston: Edinburgh. 1995.
The Healing Cuisine of China. Zhao & Ellis. Healing Arts Press: Vermont. 1998.
An interesting theoretical write up: http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/ayurveda-health-wellbeing/997986-liver-yin-deficiency-patterns-derived-patterns.html