Spring is a time for cleansing and restoring our body, mind, and spirit, and supporting our digestion during this time can be a great place to start your 'Spring clean'! If you are feeling fatigued and suffering from sluggish digestion with symptoms such as constipation, bloating, or flatulence, it may be be beneficial to start implementing some gentle cleansing practices in to your lifestyle. It has certainly been an unseasonable start to Spring, with March being colder than February, and the recent mini heatwave now a distant memory, but at least Mother Nature seems to be getting on board now; the plants are blooming and so too can you with a few simple nutrition and lifestyle changes.
Why detox in Spring?
We all enjoy a good spring clean in the house at this time of year as it gives us an opportunity to let go of things that aren’t necessarily serving our best intentions anymore, to declutter our lives and create space for new beginnings and growth. Our bodies consistently strive to maintain a sate of homeostasis through neutralising and eliminating toxins and pathogens that we encounter on an everyday basis. It ia important to remember that what we eat, drink, and the environments we immerse ourselves in, can either help or hinder the body's natual ability to cleasne and detox efficiently. To prepare for the warm season ahead, we first need to prepare our bodies and minds. Laying down a solid foundation and using what nature provides in the form of plants and herbs allows us to cleanse and restore naturally. Our digestive system forms part of this foundation, and is an area that benefits greatly from a spring cleanse to allow us to return to a state of balance and positive vitality. Detoxing in the spring can support our transition and growth into summer and help our bodies to get rid of the heaviness, damp and stagnation that accumulates over the winter. By supporting the body's natural detoxification processes, we enhance our overall health, well-being and resilience to overcome spring ailments such as hay fever, allergies, and seasonal colds.
Spring is a time of rebirth and clearing where nature restarts its life cycle, where we shed our layers, re-ignite our passions, and emerge from our winter hibernation. Spring provides us with the opportunity to embark upon a cleanse as it is when many cleansing green plants and herbs start to grow, such as dandelion, cleavers, garlic, nettle, and chickweed. Common weeds to many but powerful healing body cleansers that we should all be paying more attention to in these increasingly toxic times.
Toxins in our environment
We live in increasingly toxic environments and are exposed daily to a concoction of synthetic chemicals via our air, water, food, and consumer products. The amount of toxic chemicals stored in the human body is referred to as the “body burden’ and it is this accumulation of chemicals that can contribute to many health problems including leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Toxin exposure is a risk factor for developmental problems in children, which is an issue that appears to be on the rise worldwide. Bio-monitoring data for Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are increasingly finding toxic chemicals, pollutants, and metals in pregnant women and the umbilical cords of newborns. A study conducted on 328 pregnant women in inner city New York found that exposure to phthalates present in plastics increased the risk for reduced IQ in children. Supporting detoxification before trying to conceive is a great way to protect your baby from toxin-related illnesses such as autoimmune diseases which are increasingly on the rise.
Mind-Body Gut Cleanse
The microbiome is an area that we cannot ignore anymore as research increasingly shows how it is central to our health and wellbeing. Supporting the detoxification of our digestive system is the best way to ensure we are eliminating stored toxins and chemicals in the body. If you are suffering from sluggish bowels or bouts of frequent constipation, flatulence, or bloating, then it is likely that you are not eliminating toxins properly and therefore can run the risk of re-absorbing them back in to the body. This build up of waste can leave you feeling fatigued, and can affect sleep, concentration, microflora balance, fertility, and skin health. As a nutritional therapist I am a big advocate of doing year round gentle cleansing as well as two seasonal cleanses a year in both the Spring and Autumn to prepare the body for the journey into winter. As the weather warms it becomes easier to start incorporating salads, fresh herbs, tonics and juices in to our daily schedules. It is important to include plenty of fibre in your diet to support optimal good levels of friendly bacteria in the G.I tract, and assist the elimination of waste through the intestines. New research into the gut-brain axis is revealing that the gut and your mind work in synergy together along with other systems in the body and that they influence each other via the enteric nervous system. Known as the ‘second brain’ this microbiome influences our digestion, our mood, and our sleeping patterns. Therefore by introducing a digestive cleanse you will also be supporting your emotional landscape and the ability to initiate those spring intentions and goals. It is certainly a good time of year to release any negative thought patterns and emotions that are no longer serving you.
Nutrition tips for a nourishing Spring cleanse
1.) Lemon - Start the day with a cup of hot water and half a lemon to flush the liver, rehydrate, alkalize the body, and kich start your metabolism.
2.) Fibre - Make sure you are consuming adequate fibre, both soluble and insoluble to increase bowel transit time and elimination of toxins. Good sources of fibre include flaxseed, psyllium husk, lentils, sweet potatoes, oats, chia seeds, fruits and vegetables.
3.) Include fresh or dried cleansing kitchen herbs in to your diet - for example, fennel, wild garlic, peppermint, caraway, rosemary, cumin and wild nettle.
4.) Hydrate - Drink more filtered water to support the lymphatic system and elimination of toxins. Aim for 8 glasses per day, away from food as this will slow down digestion by neutralising digestive juices. Try adding cleansing foods such as slices of lemon, parsley, mint, and cucumber.
5.) Liver - Our liver is the largest organ in the body and it works day and night to process environmental and emotional toxins. Support your liver with foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, chicory, caraway seeds, turmeric, lemon, watercress, avocado, rocket, and garlic.
6.) Avoid processed and non-nourishing foods such as white flour, white refined sugar, alcohol, and non organic meat. Replace with wholegrains, natural sugars, and freshly prepared foods as found in nature.
7.) Consume seasonal fruits and vegetables which will support the body's transition in to spring and provide the body with the correct nutrients for the time of year. Follow Eat the seasons for monthly guidance on whats currently in season.
8.) Herbal teas - Introduce more cleansing herbal teas such as dandelion, nettle, peppermint, fennel, and aloe vera. Pukka does some great cleansing teas and supplements to support digestion and detoxification including a lovely Cleanse tea together with a Clean Greens supplement.
Self Care practices for Spring Cleansing
Spend time in Nature:
Take a walk in nature to connect to the changes going on in nature and to tune in to your own new beginnings and projects that you want to put in to action for the rest of the year ahead. Spending time outside is also important for topping up your vitamin D levels. As the days become longer and we spend more time outside in natural light, we begin to build immunity and energy in the body, which will enable us to put our plans in to action.
Nature provides an array of cleansing plants at this time of year so why not sign up to a foraging course with a herbalist who can safely help you to identify beneficial plants for spring cleansing. More common plants such as dandelion greens can easily be identified and are packed full of vitamins and minerals that support the bodies natural cleansing process.
Incorporate asanas with twists in to your yoga practice which will help to detoxify your internal organs. The reclining twist pose stimulates digestion and relieves gas and constipation. Lunging prayer, abdominal twists, and twisting half moon are all great poses for supporting detoxification. For a full detoxifying holistic yoga flow for spring head over to Yoga Journal for a full practice.
Promote a healthy oral microbiome and support digestive health by scraping your tongue twice a day. Clear toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles which can accumulate during your sleep and be reabsorbed if not removed. Tongue scraping is also beneficial for supporting digestive fire ‘agni’ and preventing bad breath.
Take a Good Quality Probiotic:
If you suffer from bowel irregularity and aren’t eliminating every day it is worth considering a probiotic to eliminate dysbiosis and ensure you are eliminating waste efficiently from the colon. I would recommend taking a good quality well-researched probiotic such as OptiBac Probiotics 'Bifidobacteria & Fibre' which contains the strain Bifidobacterium Lactis BB-12 a probiotic strain which has been extensively researched and demonstrated effectiveness at reducing constipation, and promoting healthy, regular, and complete bowel movements.
Eating probiotic rich fermented foods such as miso and sauerkraut and drinks like kefir and kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help to restore the balance of good healthful bacteria against the bad bacteria, decreasing your risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Give your colon a spring cleanse with a colonic hydrotherapy treatment. Hydrotherapy is an ancient practice that uses purified water, sometimes together with probiotics, to cleanse the colon of toxins and accumulated faecal matter. Sessions last about an hour and have been shown to support relief from constipation and detoxification.
Detoxification is essential to health but the key is to start slowly so as not to overwhelm the body. The best approach is a gentle continuous detoxification throughout the year, as well as supporting optimal gut health with probiotics. If we detox too quickly with extreme fasts/cleanses more toxins may be mobilised than our body can efficiently get rid off and then we can experience unwanted symptoms such as headaches, skin outbreaks, gut problems, and nausea. I would always recommend detoxing under the guidance of a registered nutritional therapist.
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