In acupuncture, the meridian is a system of twelve lines that connect acupoints, or points used in acupuncture practice. They are regarded as the channels through which all qi (energy) flows. As an acupuncturist, it is my job to ‘tap into’ these meridians using needles. I help your body move energy to its proper place.
Meridians are all over the place, and each is governed by a specific organ. This month, we will focus on one of the most overlooked meridians in the body: the gallbladder.
Consider: our culture is quick to dedicate entire months to heart, lung, and brain health. But when do we ever hear about ‘National Gall Bladder Awareness Month’ (FYI: it’s in February)? In fact it seems like the only time we ever hear about the gallbladder is when there is something wrong with it. But there is much more to it than western culture cares to acknowledge.
This organ works closely with the lymphatic system to clear out toxic by-products of the metabolism from the muscular system. Without it, we would be filled up with all kinds of toxins! Its energy provides us with muscular strength and vitality. In other words, the gallbladder essentially eliminates muscular fatigue and aches. It also directly affects both the quality and length of sleep.
Eastern medicine believes that all organs of the body are responsible for not only their anatomic functions but emotions and emotional issues as well. Thus, the gallbladder plays a large role in courage and initiative. Remember the old English phrase, ‘a lot of gall’? People didn’t just say it because it had a ring to it. People with a weak gallbladder are indecisive, timid, and easily discouraged.
The gallbladder is located near the liver, but that doesn’t mean it is only limited to affecting that region of the body… not from a Chinese perspective, anyway. In Chinese medicine, the gall bladder meridian runs up over the shoulders and back of the neck, around to the top of the head and forehead. It is for this reason that the common tension headache is attributed to blockages within the gall bladder meridian. By using needles to access the gallbladder meridian at the proper acupoint, these blockages can be totally alleviated. With this comes longer and more restful sleep, no tension headaches, or dizziness.
So, with all this in mind, here are some ways to be kind to your gallbladder:
- Drink a cup of warm lemon water every morning Lemon helps to ease the many duties of the gallbladder. The juice from a lemon will increase urination, which releases toxins faster. It also encourages the gallbladder to produce bile, one of the key acids used in digestion. Additionally, lemons are chock full of vitamin C, which decreases stress and boosts immunity. Why warm, you ask? Warm liquids are absorbed by the body much faster, because less energy is spent trying to convert it to an absorbable temperature.
- Use coconut oil This oil is phenomenal if you are experiencing blockages in the gallbladder or liver qui because it does not need to be digested or emulsified by either organ. Your gallbladder cannot process large amounts of fat on regular basis, otherwise you risk health complications including gallstones. Unrefined coconut oil is very easy on the gallbladder because it contains mostly short and medium chained fatty acids, which do not require pancreatic enzymes or bile salts to digest. You can use it as a substitute for cooking oil, or even add a spoonful into a hot drink like tea or coffee.
- Eat more sulfur-rich foods Like garlic, onions, and any of the cruciferous veggies (think kale, broccoli, and cauliflower). They will provide you with nutrient necessary in the digestive process.
- Do more yoga The use of meditation, breathing techniques, and certain poses in daily yoga have been found to enhance gallbladder function. The most effective poses to help the gallbladder are sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose), shalabhasana (locust pose), dhanarasana (bow pose), bhujangasana (cobra pose), and paschimotasana (back stretching posture). Of course, I would advise you to work with a professional yoga instructor if you choose to use any of these.
- Take a Gallbladder flush Combine ½ cup of olive oil with 1 cup of either lemon or grapefruit juice and consume right before bed. Make sure that you take this only during the springtime, because flushes and cleanses are better in the spring when energy is starting to come up.
- Avoid greasy foods These foods will clog the gallbladder, subjecting it to additional strain because they are high in fat. It will also likely alleviate stomach problems that you may be having if you are experiencing gallbladder obstruction.
- Give yourself time to heal emotionally Chinese medicine reminds us that often those with gallbladder distress are likely to be feeling anger, frustration, and resentment. Do something that will make you feel well: go for a long hike, relax in the sun, rebuild your positive energy supply.