Naturally, we start opening up the windows, clearing out the closets and eating lighter food. It’s a time for renewal, refreshing and rebirth. During this season many people like to do a spring “cleanse” or “fast” to aid in detoxification and get a fresh start. I hugely support regular cleansing in order to give the digestive system a rest and support the organs of elimination. This results in the removal of built -up toxins and, often, a positive change in health.
I also feel strongly that cleansing should be part of our daily routine to gently reduce the everyday burden we carry from our less-than-pristine environment and lifestyle. Regular cleansing rituals result in brighter skin, better energy, sounder sleep and, frequently, hormonal balancing. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from cleansing support in their daily life.
To bring detoxification into the everyday, it is imperative that we assist the “organs of elimination.” This means we are supporting the intestines, kidneys, skin, lymphatic system, liver and lungs to just do the job they love to do: move out the trash so the body can thrive!
First, let’s start with the intestines.
Regular (daily) bowel movements are crucial; it’s just a fact.
Many people tell me they go to the bathroom every other day or even less and it’s just “normal for them,” so “let’s not focus on it.” I’m sorry, but I can’t let that fly! Health (and disease) starts in the gut, and we need to get the waste out of our body every single day. Regular elimination is crucial for the large intestines (preventing colon cancer) as well as total mind and body health. When you are filled with crap, don’t you just feel like crap?!
A diet high in fruit, vegetables and water keeps the bowels moving for most people. If not, I recommend 2 tablespoon of ground flax seed, chia seeds or acacia fiber daily. You can add this to a smoothie, applesauce, food or water, and it is amazing what this one simple step will do to keep things rolling along.
Next, your kidneys must be encouraged to consistently move a lot of fluid.
Toxins are held up in fat tissue, joints and extra cellular water stores. Just remaining well hydrated will encourage the kidneys to push out these toxins daily. Start each day with a full cup of water. For extra cleansing action add 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. That lip-puckering flavor stimulates the digestion, tonifies the liver and activates those kidneys. Continue with 7 more cups of water per day, and even more if you sweat or enjoy anything with caffeine. Consider drinking 3-5 cups of detox tea throughout the week. These teas are made by Yogi Tea or Traditional Medicinals and can be found in many markets.
Your skin and its close friend the lymphatic system are major areas of toxin clearance.
The lymphatic system doesn’t get much attention, but it deserves our appreciation for moving immune cells in and toxins out! The lymphatic vessels run quietly under the skin, next to the blood vessels, and act as our secondary circulatory system. The lymph does not have its own pump, like the heart, so it needs to be moved along with the force of gravity and muscle action. Exercise, inverted yoga poses, gentle trampoline bouncing and calf “pumps” all move that delicate lymph. You can also stimulate the lymphatic system by gently brushing the skin with a natural fiber skin brush. Brush in REALLY light strokes toward the heart before showering or bedtime. Lymphatic movement is hard to feel, but just keep your body moving (or inverted), and your lymph will keep flowin’.
The skin is our largest organ and an often-overlooked detox pathway. The skin likes to have mild exfoliation as well as contrasting hot and cold water to maximize circulation. Daily hydrotherapy can do wonders for your skin and whole body. Here is one simple trick: After a hot shower or bath, quickly rinse the skin (for up to 30 seconds) with cool/cold water. Briskly dry your body with a towel. You may feel shy about turning on that cold water, but if you follow up with a brisk toweling, your body will be warm and humming with fresh circulation. (The same goes for cold plunges in a river after a hot tub—try it!). Sweating is the main vehicle for removing toxins (like heavy metals) through the skin. Exercise, saunas and “hot yoga” are all great methods. In fact, exercise in general helps every single organ of elimination do its job more efficiently.
The liver is our main detoxification organ, processing everything we put into our bodies.
We can assist our hard-working livers by decreasing the daily body burden and feeding it the right nutrients. Choosing organic food and chemical-free makeup and cleaning supplies as well as avoiding preservatives, alcohol, fake sugars and smelly chemicals all will make for a much happier liver.
When the liver has the right nutrients for detoxification, it can do its job smoothly. Happy livers make for happy people. Sluggish, unhappy livers make for sallow skin, fatigue, nausea, headaches, PMS, menopause symptoms and moodiness (especially anger and irritability).
Regularly eating foods and herbs that the liver loves will push those detoxification pathways into high gear. Enjoy the following foods and herbs with wild abandon to keep the liver running on all cylinders: carrots, parsley, beets (and their greens), dandelion greens, cilantro, artichokes, sunchokes, garlic, milk thistle, burdock and fennel (yummy as a tea!). Drinking fresh vegetable juice a few times a week (with the above veggies) will nourish the liver and gallbladder potently. See below for my cleansing raw beet soup recipe which happens to be incredibly delicious!
A simple home remedy to turn up the liver’s activity is to rub castor oil onto the liver and abdomen followed by a hot pack. It amazingly facilitates liver and digestive action, which is especially helpful with constipation and PMS (watch cramps go away quickly and bowels move within hours). While rubbing on your castor oil, send that liver lots of love because it has been shouldering the burden of detoxification for your whole body your entire life!
Lastly, the lungs have a very important function in moving toxins out.
Through exhaling, we let off gases being converted in the body. In addition, deep breathing immediately turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells the body to use our energy to rest, digest and heal. So, every day, it is wonderful for the body and brain to do 20 deep, slow breaths.
Let’s take a deep breath together and welcome spring cleansing all year round!
Erika Siegel N.D.
Raw Beet (Cleansing) Soup