When I take a deep breath, I smell spring in the air. Join me and take a deep breath to awaken your senses. Inhale the cool air, fragrant with blossoming flowers and budding trees. Spring is in the air. The days have grown longer, the air warmer. Spring is the time of year for rebirth, a new beginning. Mother Nature has awakened from her long winter nap and has been born into another cycle of life once again.
Our bodies go through a similar process with the change of seasons. During the winter, our bodies store up as much as they can to keep us warm during the cold months. By the time spring arrives, our bodies are ready to release all that has been stored—including toxins.
Pollutants are everywhere. Even if we are vigilant about our health, it is impossible to avoid them. Toxins fill the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Over time, these toxins accumulate and hinder the body’s natural elimination, immunity, and healing processes. Symptoms that manifest from toxic overload often appear as skin problems, aches and pains, allergies, fatigue, constipation, brain fog, low-grade infections, and menstrual issues.
Detoxification refers to the natural process of cleansing your body and beginning anew. In many cultures, detoxification has been practiced for centuries around the world. It is about cleaning the body from the inside out by purifying the blood. It works by removing impurities in the liver where toxins are processed for elimination. Toxins are also released through our lungs, digestive tract, kidneys, skin, and lymph. There are many pathways to eliminate toxins, but when one or more of them are not working properly, the toxins accumulate and affect the whole body.
Detoxification is the support system to the body’s natural ability to heal. In addition to purifying your body, detoxification can help to build your immunity to disease by clearing out impurities and mucus that build up inside the digestive tract. So what can we do to assist this natural process?
The best thing you can do is to give your body a break. For beginners, it is preferable to start for three to seven days, by adding in nutrient dense, body-building foods that are naturally detoxifying and working on eliminating foods that are taxing to your system and then assess how you feel.
First, cut out the foods that are bogging you down:
• Sugar: Even natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are best avoided during the short cleansing period. Fermented drinks such as kombucha, found at natural foods stores, have purifying effects on the liver and boost energy.
• Gluten: Even if you believe you are not gluten intolerant, giving your body a break from this hard-to-digest protein is beneficial.
• Caffeine: Such drinks as coffee are very stressful on the adrenal glands; it gives us a false boost in energy and can lead to chronic fatigue. Try substituting green tea.
• Grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds: These are nutritious foods, but hard on the digestive system.
• Animal meat: Again, it’s difficult to digest; avoid it during this period, opting for organic, pasture-fed eggs as a protein source instead. When reintroducing meats, choose humanely raised animals raised on pasture.
• Dairy: Often a problematic food, try removing all sources from your diet and reintroduce them slowly to evaluate your reaction to them. Always choose organic, minimally processed, preferably cultured, and full fat. Simple substitutions are coconut milk and ghee.
In addition, avoid alcohol and cigarettes. These changes may seem impossible, but anyone can do it for a short period of time. For three to seven days, based on how you feel, replace the above foods with the following easily digestible foods.
• Spring greens: Collard and beet greens, dandelion leaves, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are alkalizing in the body, which stimulates the lymph system to drain.
• Spring vegetables: Asparagus, peas, radishes, onions, garlic, and lettuce. Visit the farmer’s market for inspiration.
• Coconut: Full fat coconut milk, extra virgin coconut oil, unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut butter. Spread it on bread or add it to smoothies and soups for a boost in energy and immune properties and a good source of needed fat.
• Probiotics: Lacto-fermented veggies such as pickles and sauerkraut (not pasteurized, available at natural foods markets) repopulate good bacteria back into your digestive tract as you cleanse.
• Low-sugar fruits: Berries, sour citrus (limes, lemons, grapefruits), pomegranates, and green apples purify the blood.
• Wild seafood: Enjoy all sustainable and low-mercury varieties, best fresh from the seafood market. Sea vegetables—including seaweed, spirulina, and chlorella—are also excellent cleansing foods. Avoid all farm-raised seafood.
• Spices: Turmeric, chiles, and cayenne stimulate blood circulation.
• Water: Drink at least eight glasses of pure, clean water daily.
Adding these foods into your diet crowds out the foods that are heavier, mucus forming, and taxing in the body. After the first three days of eating from the above list, assess how your body feels. Add in what feels right. Some people need for more protein. Choose quality meats, sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds. Leave out the taxing and processed foods, and you can feel great year round!
In addition to dietary changes, there are lifestyle modifications that will assist your body in completing its detoxification. Stress causes a release of stress hormones in the body, which compromises the liver enzyme activity, slowing the detox process.
Relieve stress by choosing exercises that engage both physical and mental activity such as yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation. Exercise helps waste elimination by stimulating all three, engaging the circulatory, digestive, and lymph systems.
Take care to gauge your ability to adjust to any dietary and lifestyle changes. Be sure to consult your health-care practitioner before beginning a new diet, detoxification process, or exercise. The key to feeling great, looking your best, and reaching your maximum potential is to choose what works for you. There are choices for a healthy lifestyle, and the easiest way to achieve it is to remember that adding in crowds out. When you add in healthier foods and activities, it makes less room for unhealthy choices. Put your attention on the things that make you feel your best and your life will change spontaneously. Take the time to be present in each moment, and your potential will bloom before your eyes. ∆
Cindi Small is a local health and nutrition coach who offers food and lifestyle counseling to people seeking to improve their overall quality of life. To find out more, visit faultlinewellness.com.