Spring is a time of renewal for the Earth, but also for our bodies. For centuries, religions around the world have practiced spring detoxifications to heal the body, mind and spirit, and that tradition continues today in many cultures.
“Springtime is a great time for a cleanse because a lot of the foods that are coming up right now — greens, asparagus, artichokes — support normal detoxification pathways in the liver, kidneys, intestines and even the skin,” says Debra Brammer, ND, clinical dean of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the Seattle teaching clinic of Bastyr University.
So how do you know if you should do a detox?
Dr. Brammer says a cleanse that’s based on foods rather than just on liquids can be beneficial to almost everyone, especially those suffering from common spring complaints and other ailments including:
- High cholesterol
For all of these issues, try simplifying your diet as you increase your intake of detoxifying foods and adjust your intake of other foods.
Stick with beans, fish and poultry for your protein, and for your fruits and vegetables, “Eat a rainbow of colors so you’re getting every food group out there,” Dr. Brammer says.
Meanwhile, decrease consumption of starches such as white rice and bread, and replace them with whole grains including brown rice, quinoa and millet. And be sure to drink plenty of water.
Recipe for a General Spring Detox
Because a spring detox lets you shift your diet from winter foods to spring foods, you’ll want to focus on fresh, seasonal produce, including:
- Leafy green vegetables (such as red chard and mustard greens)
- Spring onions
These detoxifying foods help make sure the liver and kidneys process hormones and other substances that have been taken in by the body. Seasonal herbs can also be beneficial during your detox:
- Dandelion leaf or dandelion flower
- Red clover flower, which works on the lungs and also on the lymph system
- Burdock root
“You can make a spring tea that has all of these lovely herbs in it,” Dr. Brammer says. “You might want to throw in some mint if you’re a warmer person; if you’re a colder person, put in some ginger.”
To address more specific complaints such as hay fever and other spring allergies, Dr. Brammer recommends adding vitamin C, zinc and carotenoids to help stabilize your over-reactive immune cells.
In addition to the above detoxifying vegetables and herbs, she also recommends boosting your vitamin C intake with more:
- Bitter leafy greens, which can be eaten raw or cooked
- Yellow and orange vegetables
- Rose hips, which can be eaten in or made into a tea
After a winter starved of the sun, we can never seem to get enough of the outdoors when spring rolls around. But for some of us, that upswing in energy can also lead to insomnia, Dr. Brammer says.
The general spring detox can help your body adjust to spring, but Dr. Brammer also suggests you try expelling some of that extra energy by increasing your exercise, preferably in the morning or late afternoon.
She also suggests you create quiet time before bedtime by avoiding computer and TV use, instead maybe reading a calming book.
A tepid bath with 1 cup of Epsom salts, lemon verbena or lavender essential oil can help calm you down, or try a relaxing tea a half-hour before bed made of:
“These herbs are very calming to the mind so that you can let go and go to bed,” Dr. Brammer says.
If you suffer from high cholesterol, spring is the perfect time to start fighting back. Some herbs and vegetables that are particularly helpful at reducing “bad” cholesterol include:
- Dandelion root
Spring is also an ideal time to battle any issues you’ve been having with constipation, which can be caused by a lack of fiber, stress, a nutrient deficiency or eating the heavier foods that are more prevalent in winter, Dr. Brammer says. You can simply try the general spring detox to treat constipation, but the more fiber you can add to your detox diet, the better.
“And fiber, of course, is in everything that’s fresh,” Dr. Brammer says. Increase your intake of both spring vegetables and fruits, and be sure to add plenty of leafy green vegetables, which also are chock-full of antioxidants to help minimize cell damage.
The Pitfalls of a Liquid-Only Detox
Although it might be tempting to try a trendy liquid-only detox diet, such as the Master Cleanse or juice detox diets, Dr. Brammer warns against cutting food from your diet unless you’re able to cut back on your activity as well.
“If you are still working the same number of hours and you’re still dealing with the same pressure,” she says, “a heavy detox can deplete your energy and leave you more prone to getting sick.”
Depriving your body of the nutrition it needs also puts stress on the body, as opposed to the spring detox Dr. Brammer recommends, which “fuels the body with the nutrition it needs to start healing.”
To learn more about detoxification or to make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist, call Bastyr Center at (206) 834-4100.