Spring is the season for lifting spirits, having a positive outlook, for renewal, growth... and possibly a detox?
After a long, cold winter, the return of sunny days can warm the heart. I always experience a sense of renewed motivation, along with that feeling of anything is possible once again. We often feel more empowered to make healthy changes in Spring; spending time in nature, increasing exercise and being more aware of our external and internal environments.
A great habit to get into is a Spring detox or cleanse. A change in diet with the season can benefit both body and mind. Spring is a great time to break away from stodgy winter foods and give your liver and other organs of elimination a boost.
Let’s consider what the human body has to process. We are constantly surrounded by toxins, environmental pollutants, chemicals and modern technology. We might not eat so well all the time, we drink alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, we eat too much sugar and live fairly stressful lives. We then expect our bodies to handle all this effortlessly and to provide us with optimal health and wellbeing. Is this realistic?
Everyone gets their car serviced and spring cleans their homes, but how many of us respect our bodies equally? When we detox, we are improving the function of our eliminatory organs. We can’t replace them but we can help them work better.
A detox can mean many things. What I'm referring to is simply supporting the natural detoxification pathways of the body by taking a little pressure off these organs. Elimination and detoxification occurs via the digestive system (faecal material), urinary system (urine), skin (sweat), lymphatic system (blood and lymph) and of course the liver; a truly amazing organ. While most of us are aware that the liver does the hard work of breaking down alcohol and drugs – it also breaks down our naturally occurring hormones and other chemicals in our body, chemical residues (such as pesticides) and additives/preservatives in refined foods. Kudos to the liver!
Why should you undergo a Spring detox?
Anyone can benefit from a Spring detox but it will be particularly helpful if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Lack of energy
- Dark circles under your eyes
- A coated tongue
- PMS symptoms
- Aching joints
- Digestive disturbances
- Dry/dull looking skin
How to do a basic Spring detox
There are many levels of detoxing. The following is a suggestion on the more gentle side and could be undertaken for 10 days to 2 weeks to see positive benefits.
1. For the first 1-2 days eat only fruit and vegetables. (*See cautions and contraindications below) If the weather is warm enough then raw is best. Include fresh vegetable juices if you like (not fruit juices), drink plenty of pure water and herbal teas (not green tea, or regular tea, these contain caffeine). If this is too extreme for you, then start at point 2. below.
2. Remove toxins: no alcohol, caffeine (including soft drinks, chai, green tea) drink only pure water (ideally 2-3 litres/day), herbal teas and fresh vegetable juices. It goes without saying but give up smoking, avoid recreational drugs and skip regular painkillers for headaches. Reduce your stress, breathe deeply, walk in the fresh air daily. Start each morning with the juice of half a lemon squeezed in warm water. Dry brush your skin before you shower each day and have a sauna once a week to help open your pores.
3. Cut out refined food: no biscuits, bread, pastries, snacks, chocolates or other pre-made and packaged 'treats'. No salt, sugar, flour or dairy products.
4. Eat only quality protein sources (meat, eggs, fish) and eliminate dairy. Base the majority of your diet on fresh organic fruit and vegetables with nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains (oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa etc). Cook everything from scratch. Include a raw element to all meals. Ideally the food you eat on a detox is organically grown and the water is filtered. Include some good fats such as a coconut oil, or a drizzle of olive or avocado oil with lemon juice on salads.
Some extra special detox foods and herbs:
- Turmeric – especially if you can find it fresh and add it to a juice for a little bit extra for your liver
- Artichokes, steamed – also great for the liver, but skip the butter
- Leafy greens and bitter vegetables – raw in salads with a dash of lemon juice
- Coriander – finely chop and put on salads, it aids the detoxification of heavy metals
- Garlic – best eaten raw, it's antimicrobial and great for digestion
5. Be kind to yourself. If you haven’t undertaken a Spring detox before, start with a week or two of no alcohol or sugar (or whatever your greatest weakness is) and see what it brings up for you. Don't starve yourself, a detox is not a fast! Keep eating every 3-4 hours during the day to continue nurturing and nourishing your body. Snacks might be some raw carrot sticks, a boiled egg or half a cup of berries.
The benefits of a Spring Clean
Initially you may get headaches, a skin breakout or extra respiratory mucous. You might also be a bit grumpy, but once the cleanse has been established, you'll feel amazing! You'll feel healthier and will ultimately be helping your body work more effectively. Here are some added benefits:
- Clear headed
- Grounded and in touch with your body
- Have glowing skin
- ... and usually be a kilo or two lighter if you were not your optimum size.
Who shouldn’t detox?
Detoxing is not for everyone so please read the cautions and contraindications below and do not undertake a detox if:
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding – though your diet should be additive free, full of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains, do not do something as extreme as a fruit and vegetable ‘fast’ as in point 1.
- You have Diabetes. Although if not medicated, Type 2 Diabetics will benefit from a gentle phase of the detox as in points 2, 3 and 4 above.
- If you are on prescribed medication.
- While many chronic health conditions can benefit from a detox, you need to talk to an experienced Naturopath first, as sometimes conditions may flare initially and should be closely monitored.