The Perfect Time for a Spring Cleanse
Spring equinox heralds the moment when nature begins to turn its attention outwards, emerging from the introspective winter hibernation. Just as nature springs into action all around us, we might start to feel the stirring call for movement and change, making this the perfect time for a spring cleanse.
At this time of year, we often start to notice our home environment afresh and begin cleaning windows, sweeping out the cobwebs and taking our unwanted goods to the charity shop. We might also dust off our running shoes, start outdoor swimming or just feel more alive and awake in our bodies. So it can feel really great to apply some of that natural desire for clearing out the old and welcoming in the new in relation to our diet.
Set yourself a time frame of 4 weeks and then see how you feel at the end of it. In the process of giving your diet and lifestyle a bit of an overhaul, you might find some new healthy habits stick. I stopped drinking caffeine after taking a 30 day break and realising that my migraines and heart palpitations stopped. I felt so much better that I never drank it again, and that was 23 years ago!
Just as our homes can benefit from a good de-cluttering, our bodies can be grateful for an opportunity to detoxify with greater ease. Detoxification is a natural process carried out by the liver and bowel, kidney and bladder, skin, lungs, and the lymphatic system. Our incredible bodies are detoxifying all the time, but we can make a decision to support that natural process rather than to hinder it.
Signs that it’s time to reduce your toxic load
- Low energy and constant fatigue
- Acne, break outs and itchy skin
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or heartburn
- Mood swings, irregular periods and hot flushes
- Weight gain
Removing or reducing certain foods and stimulants can relieve pressure on the detoxification channels, in particular the liver.
Reduce or avoid
- Refined sugar and carbohydrates including cakes, pastries, pizza, bread and pies
- Processed foods
- Saturated fats and fried foods
- Caffeine (including energy drinks)
Support the process
Allow the digestive system to carry out its job effectively, and then let it rest. This maximises the digestive capacity, optimises nutrition intake and supports a happy gut. Common habits such as constantly grazing, over-eating or eating while we multi-task, all tax and reduce digestive function. Here are some ideas for supporting the digestive process during your spring cleanse:
- Aim to eat lightly during your spring cleanse: soups, salads, vegetable juices and simple home cooked meals
- Adopt the Japanese practice of Hara Hachi Bu, encouraging you to stop eating when you are 80% full. This can reduce the likelihood of overeating and creating that ‘stuffed’ feeling
- Eat slowly and mindfully in a calm environment so that you work with your digestive system to receive and break down your food. Have a read of my blog for mindful eating tips
- Allow 4 hours between each meal to allow for the migrating motor complex to kick in. This is a sweeping action that moves food particles through the digestive tract and preventing a build-up of bacteria in the wrong place. Think of it as a regular intestinal spring clean!
- Intermittent fasting: Daily autophagy (body eating itself) is ancient wisdom from our ancestors who frequently experienced feast or famine. You simply extend the natural overnight fast and thus restrict the eating window. A common ratio is 16/8 with the 8 hour eating window beginning earlier or later in the day, according to your preference. So if you are an early morning breakfast person, you might eat between 7-3pm, or if you don’t tend to feel hungry in the morning, you might go for 11-7pm. Fasting facilitates healing and the detoxification process as the body is not having to busy itself with digestion. It slows down ageing in the body by reducing oxidative stress, increasing growth hormones and preserving telomeres, which protect the body’s precious DNA.
So now that you have cleared the weeds, created space so that the digestive process can function unhindered, you’re ready to nourish the soil!
- Aim to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients and plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, good quality protein and healthy fats
- Increase antioxidant rich foods to neutralise free radical damage caused by toxins. Antioxidants are abundant in fresh fruit and vegetables. Important antioxidants include CoQ10, quercetin and alpha lipoic acid along with minerals like magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium and manganese which are co-factor nutrients for liver detoxification. The potent trio of vitamins often referred to as ACE are essential antioxidants:
- A: Think orange foods – carrots, sweet potato, mangoes and squash
- C: Berries, apples, parsley, kale, rocket and citrus fruits
- E: Raw nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocados and fish
- B vitamins are essential nutrients for detoxification. Sources of B vitamins include:
- Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and rocket
- Whole grains
- Organic eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes including kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas and green peas
- Include lots of liver loving foods that aid the detoxification pathway:
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, pak choy, rocket all contain sulphoraphane which triggers the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes. Broccoli sprouts are 10-100 x higher in sulphoraphane then broccoli itself
- Sulphur rich foods such as onion, garlic, leeks, shallots
- Bitter vegetables like chicory, dandelion greens and rocket which increase bile production to help to break down fats
- Citrus peel
- Buy organic foods wherever possible to reduce your intake of pesticides and other toxins from the food chain
- Make sure you are well hydrated by drinking 2L of water a day. This should ideally be filtered or distilled
- Swap out caffeine for herbal teas and coffee substitutes. Dandelion root is particularly supportive of liver detoxification as it stimulate digestion and helps to promote the secretion of bile (to enable the correct breakdown and metabolism of fats). Take it as either a tea or coffee substitute
As well as the obvious benefit to our health that a spring cleanse can bring, physical detoxification can also help us to feel lighter and clearer mentally and emotionally.
If you would like support through the process of a spring cleanse, please do get in touch. Sometimes we just need a little guidance and encouragement to make positive changes that can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.