- over-consumption of fatty, greasy, and high in cholesterol foods
- over-consumption of alcohol and other toxins
- chronic stress
- unresolved anger
- Yin deficiency
The Liver is the cleansing laboratory of the body. Over-consumption of fatty, greasy, and high in cholesterol foods, blocks the normal functioning of the Liver. According to traditional Chinese medicine long-term blockage and stagnation leads to the "generation of heat".
Imagine you are stuck in traffic. Even if you are a patient person you will eventually get irritated. Your face will turn red, you will start feeling hot, even start sweating. This is a visual example how stagnation (the traffic, the lack of movement) leads to the generation of "heat". This is why long term stagnation of Liver Qi (Liver Qi stagnation) will eventually lead to "heat in the Liver". "Liver Qi stagnation" besides poor diet is caused by chronic stress or unresolved anger. Therefore long term stress and anger lead to "heat in the Liver".
Over-consumption of alcohol and other toxins, which are all heating in nature, also accumulates "heat in the Liver".
To understand the last cause for "heat in the Liver" we need to quickly review the concept of Yin and Yang in yraditional Chinese medicine.
Since Yang in nature represents activity, light, warmth it logically represents function/warming faculty in the human body. Since Yin in nature represents rest, quiet, slowness, in the human body it translates to structure, substance, matter. In other words Yin represents blood, body fluids and matter, while Yang is the force that gives them live.
There is good health when Yin and Yang are in balance. When there is deficiency of Yang, Yin instantly becomes excessive and vice versa – when there is deficiency of Yin, Yang becomes excessive. Yang deficiency manifests in coldness, lethargy, overflow as there is "deficiency of warmth and energy" which struggles to contain the matter. And vice versa - when there is Yin deficiency the warming principle of the body (Yang) becomes excessive which in time will lead to accumulation of heat. Thus Liver Yin deficiency leads to accumulation of heat.
The main cause for Liver Yin deficiency is the Kidney. The Kidney is the root source of Yin and Yang. Deficient Kidney Yin cannot nourish the Liver (the Water element cannot supplement the Wood) leading to deficient Liver Yin.
If you want to learn more about the Liver and its functions from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine you can read the material "The Liver in Traditional Chinese medicine" in the Physiology chapter.
- ringing in the ears (high pitch)
- deficiency heat symptoms - nervousness, irritability, dry eyes
- excess heat symptoms - explosive anger, migraines, high blood pressure, red inflamed eyes
- heat transformed into fire - the above excess heat symptoms accompanied with bleeding
- heat transformed into wind - tremor of the limbs (Parkinson’s disease), convulsions, rigidity and arching of the back and neck, deviation of the eye and mouth, paralysis of the body or tongue
General "deficiency heat" symptoms manifest in minor heat signs such as thirst, night sweats, hot palms and soles, dryness. Symptoms of "deficiency heat" pertaining specifically to the Liver are nervousness and irritability (anger is the emotion of the Liver) and dry eyes (the eyes are the sense organ of the Liver).
General "excess heat" symptoms manifest in major heat signs such as thirst for icy cold drinks, aversion to heat, redness. "Excess heat" symptoms pertaining specifically to the Liver are red inflamed eyes, explosive anger, migraines, high blood pressure.
Since the quality of the heat is to rise up it manifests in the upper part in the body. A typical symptom of “heat in the Liver” is headache. The typical "Liver heat" headache is with pain on the bilateral sides of the head or with pain on the top of the head. There may be also dizziness, restlessness, and high pitch ringing in the ears.
In severe cases or when untreated the heat may transform into "fire". In that case there will be bleeding – nose bleed, spitting up blood (haemoptysis) and /or vomiting of blood (haematemesis).
If the heat still remains untreated it will become so intense and moving that it will transform into “internal wind”. The symptoms of "internal wind" are manifested either by intense movement in the form of tremors and convulsions, or by lack of any movement - rigidity and paralysis. Symptoms of "Liver wind" are tremor of the limbs (Parkinson’s disease), convulsions, rigidity and arching of the back and neck (opisthotonos), deviation of the eye and mouth, paralysis of the body or tongue (hemiplegia, aphasia), high temperature, severe dizziness, sudden unconsciousness, coma (1)
To treat "Liver heat" (and that includes "Liver fire" and "Liver wind") both the symptom and the cause of the disease must be addressed. To do that the heat in the Liver needs to be cooled down while substance (Yin) is build in order to restrain the excess heat energy. Selecting cooling and “matter building” foods and herbs is the way to approach that disharmony.
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(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited
(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
Liver Qi Stagnation
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