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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Cox


A green plant against a beige background

Adrian is a Zen Shiatsu practitioner who is passionate about the holistic approach of Zen Shiatsu treatment. Shiatsu is Japanese massage based on the chinese medical system. Adrian works with your meridians, acupoints, uses stretches and also manipulation of the joints to help with the flow of energy (Qi) in your body.

Today Adrian would like to discuss the importance of good liver health from a traditional chinese medicine standpoint because traditional chinese medicine (TCM) is the foundation of Shiatsu. He will also address good liver health from a western medicine viewpoint.

When a particular organ is said to have an imbalance, it is foremost important to recognise that we do not focus on that organ in isolation. Rather, we must look at the system as a whole.

The function of the liver in TCM is largely the same as in Western medicine. It stores, purifies, and releases oxygen-poor/nutrient-rich blood with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates back to the heart, where it is oxygenated by the lungs and then pumped around your body again. This could explain, in part, a chinese expression, "blood has a circular movement, and qi has a forward movement." The four important organs in TCM for the production and quality of blood are: the lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys.

Some of the symptoms that may result from a liver imbalance include:

  • PMS

  • Irregular Menstruation

  • Mood Swings

  • Muscle Spasms

  • Fatigue

  • Anger

  • Dizziness

and there is a combination of three things that can be done that will help move towards minimising or eliminating these symptoms: diet, exercise and stress management.

Diet is the first step in supporting liver health.

When I say diet, I mean a nutritional, healthy balance of food and drink. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a little of what you fancy

from time to time, as long as you minimise the impact of products with high

sugar and fat content. Think of it this way: If your liver has fewer toxins to combat, it is less taxing for the organ, and the blood will be cleaner as it moves through your system, nourishing your organs, tendons, and muscles. For example, studies have shown that a healthy flow of blood to the muscles of the uterus can relax those muscles and reduce menstrual cramps.


  • Dark leafy greens

  • Flower Teas

  • Berries

  • Vegetables

  • Green Tea

  • Whitefish

  • Amaranth

  • Flax (Linseed)

“Tonifying and strengthening the body with herbs and medicine is not as good as strengthening and tonifying the body with foods, but tonifying the system with foods is not as good as not having to tonify at all.”

Exercise is the second step in supporting the liver.

Engaging in exercise is good for us in general, for the mind and the body, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle. The exercise you choose does not need to be overly strenuous, but doing it regularly is beneficial. Long walks in nature, cycling, or Qi Gong are great ways to manage your health. It is also helpful for the lymphatic system, which requires movement to function, so it is then able to move toxins in our system. When exercising, from a TCM perspective, you are taking in oxygen (Air Qi), which combines with digesting food (Nutritive Qi). This is the building block of our blood. Exercise will bring you many benefits, find what type of exercise works for you.

Stress Management is the third step in supporting the liver.

This is where Shiatsu has an extremely positive effect. Shiatsu treatments help engage the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which places you in a state of rest and digest. While your mind and body are relaxed, this provides greater opportunity for the stretches, steady pressure, and acupoints within a Shiatsu treatment to assist your body in self-regulation. When you feel safe, calm, and at ease, your organs receive the message that all is well, so they function at their optimum. When they operate in harmony, this promotes self-healing. Rest is ideal for your nervous system and for all your organs to self-regulate. Staying away from anything that would put your body into an alert state, when you can, will be beneficial.

It is interesting that your mind and body do not know the difference between real and fake danger. If you were walking down a dark road and you had all the symptoms of fear in a real situation, or if you were safely at home playing a video game or watching a horror film, your nervous system would respond in the same way. It would send the same messages and put your nervous system into a state of fight or flight, which is draining.


  • Anger

  • Unable to settle the mind and body

  • Irritable

  • Fatigue

  • Timidness

  • Withdrawn

  • Easily overwhelmed

  • Tossing and turning in bed

These signs and symptoms are linked to the Liver in TCM theory. From the TCM perspective, it does not necessarily follow that you are experiencing these symptoms because the liver is damaged. It is possible that the liver could be harmed by experiencing these emotions excessively and frequently for longer periods than the body can normally handle. This over exposure would affect the Qi of your organs and could inhibit their function. This is the main reason managing stress levels and giving your whole system a chance to regularly settle down is highly recommended.

From the Western perspective, the detoxification of the blood through the liver is one part of the body's filtration system. It eliminates excess hormones and chemicals, such as oestrogen, progesterone, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, making sure they do not return into the bloodstream. When the liver is unable to process these chemicals and hormones properly and they return into the bloodstream, an imbalance in our temperament can occur, and you may experience some of the signs and symptoms of stress listed above.


  • A day for yourself (or as much time for as long as possible, once a week)

  • A walk in nature

  • Regular rest breaks

In this blog, I have mixed the TCM perspective with the Western perspective. This is something I try not to do because they are different systems and have very different approaches, but sometimes it is nice to see the parallels.

The combination of diet, exercise, and stress management helps a great deal in supporting your liver. But please remember that these are only suggestions; you must always check with your doctor when choosing the right course of action for you.

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