While some of you in colder climates may still be trudging through sludge and feeling the doldrums of winter, here in the south we are in full time spring mode. It feels like we almost didn’t have a winter this year, it was so mild. The change in weather and especially the change in time has got me feeling like I need to do a spring cleanse.
I’m not quite sure where the tradition of spring cleansing started, but it makes sense to me. During the winter we hunker down to make it through a season that traditionally meant less food was available, it took more energy to stay warm, and life was harder. As the sun starts to warm the earth and plants start to grow again, our bodies welcome the change of pace. I’ve been craving salads, lighter meals, sunshine on my skin and walks outside. There are lots of approaches to the spring cleanse, and as always, different things work for different people. Here’s some of my thoughts on the subject, in no particular order.
1. Be careful of the extreme cleanses.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone do something extreme without the supervision of their MD, Naturopath, chiropractor, or whoever it is that you see. By extreme I mean eliminating all solid foods or severely limiting your intake, or anything that promises you results that seem too good to be true. You can mess up your metabolism pretty quickly if you aren’t careful, and that’s definitely not your goal.
2. If you’re gonna do a juice fast, do it right.
Vegetable and fruit juices are great for a lot of reasons, they allow you to take in concentrated amounts of vitamins, nutrients, and phytonutrients that you may not otherwise be able to consume. However, keep in mind that while you’re getting all those extra nutrients, you’re also getting all that extra sugar, particularly if you’re doing a lot of fruit juices. Without the fiber of the whole food, the sugar hits your blood stream a lot faster. This can cause rebound hypoglycemia and fatigue. Additionally, if you have an imbalanced gut flora or struggle with candida, juicing with fruits may not be the right option for you, because the high sugar content may feed the pathogenic bacteria. If you’re going to do a juice fast, I would limit it to a day or two max, and concentrate mostly on vegetables. Throw in some green apples for a little sugar, and if you feel like it, maybe some coconut milk for some fat to help slow absorption. And probably most importantly, juice the vegetables yourselves. Juices sold in the store have been pasteurized, so the enzymes have all been destroyed in the heating process. If you’re going to all the work of a juice fast, you might as well get all the benefits.
3. Consider eliminating sugar from your diet.
Sugar is one of the most harmful substances we consume, and there aren’t many people out there who are immune to the cravings. Maybe this spring you could try cutting sugar out of your diet for a week, two weeks, or a whole month if you’re ambitious. When I tried this, it was definitely eye opening! The sugar we consume feeds pathogenic bacteria in our intestines. As we deprive them of sugar, they start to die off, and you can get some nasty symptoms, including headaches, cravings, irritability, skin rashes, diarrhea, constipation, and a whole host of others. These are usually short lived, and can be tempered by having small amounts of sugar in gradually decreasing quantities if the die off symptoms are too extreme. In the end, it’s well worth the effort.
4. Focus on fruits and vegetables.
I think one of the best ways to cleanse your body is to simply eliminate processed food and focus on eating a lot more produce instead. You don’t need to become vegetarian, but perhaps you could consider having more vegetable side dishes with your meals. A big salad for lunch with some sliced turkey and lots of veggies is a wonderful way to increase your vegetable intake. And maybe for dinner you eat chicken with a side of smashed cauliflower and some green beans. Learn to cook veggies in a wide variety of ways, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in how you feel as you replace more starches with produce.
5. Move more!
This is something I definitely need to do. The more we exercise, the more serotonin we produce, and the better we feel. As you feel better, you’ll have more energy for making those salads, you won’t need the pick me up from sugary stimulants, and you’ll be able to enjoy the wonderful weather! Another benefit of exercise is that it helps flush your lymph system. All those nasty viruses that have been wreaking havoc all winter may still be floating around in your lymph system. Pumping your muscles by jogging, lifting weights, yoga, or any other number of exercises helps increase lymphatic circulation and gets rid of all the nasties!
6. Epsom Salt Baths
This is one of my favorites, if I can make myself slow down enough to relax in a hot bath! Buy some epsom salts at your local grocery store, and some essential oils if you’re feeling fancy. (Grapefruit is a great essential oil for detoxing, and it smells like spring!) Run some warm water and sprinkle in epsom salts, then soak in the tub for as long as you like. Epsom salts help detoxify your body and the warm bath will relax both your muscles and your mind. See, the path to wellness isn’t always about hard work!
There are lots of other ways to get a spring cleaning for your body. What are your favorites?