Written by Stacey London-Oshkello MS, RD, CD for the Brattleboro Reformer March 13, 2015.
Spring Cleansing can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle. As we shift from the cold winter to the changing weather of spring, many people are prone to getting colds; however a simple dietary cleanse can help keep your system strong through the transition. Simplifying the diet can help to boost your immune system, cleanse your liver, and thus help you to feel vibrant and optimally well.
Many traditions have a ritual of deep house cleaning during the spring. Opening the windows, washing the walls, and de-cluttering may be part of your springtime ritual. Just as we cleanse our house we want to cleanse the sacred vessel that we have called our body. This can be done with a change in diet and enhanced with some liver support herbs.
According to Chinese medicine the spring represents the energy of the liver. Since the liver is the organ that is in charge of ridding our bodies of toxins, spring is the perfect time to support this organ. With many toxins that are in our environment, our liver can get clogged or overworked, thus cleansing the liver during the spring can help the liver to do its detoxifying job more effectively and efficiently.
There are many different types of cleansing diets that are available to the public today, and of course the internet is host to many. As a nutritionist, I favor the cleansing diets that include eating healthy foods, as getting adequate nutrition while cleansing can help to keep up our muscle mass and thus keep our bodies strong. A love of eating leads me to prefer to cleanse with whole foods and avoid fasting! Intermittent fasting can be healthy; however it is not my first choice while spring cleansing.
For the past few years I have been leading a cleanse that is focused around a regimented diet. This diet includes a cleansing smoothie for breakfast that is made by blending together fresh lemon juice, fresh ginger, frozen berries, cayenne pepper (and often a medical food called Ultra Clear by Metagenics, that is designed to support the liver).For lunch and dinner there is a combination of organic protein sources from either grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, or beans; with lots of non-starchy vegetables, a small amount of starchy vegetable, and some healthy fat, such as olive oil or avocado. This dietary regimen excludes all grain, dairy, sugar, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine.
We do include an afternoon snack of nuts and seeds and/or fresh fruit. This formula usually leaves people feeling great at the end of the two weeks. It helps to view this diet as a little break for your body, a reboot. Some other great resources that are available are Dr. Mark Hyman's book, 10-Day Detox Diet and Dr. Alejandro Junger's book, Clean.
There are many things that you can do, along with the recommended diet, to enhance your liver cleansing. While changing your diet it can be helpful to use some liver support herbs such as dandelion, burdock root, and milk thistle. Once the snow melts, it can be fun to look for those first dandelion leaves on your lawn and snack on them in an effort to support your liver and enjoy the first fruits of the land. Ensure that you are getting adequate rest and drinking plenty of water. Sauna and massage can also help to enhance the elimination of unwanted wastes from the body. Many people find it easier to engage in a spring cleanse with other people for support and accountability. People tend to return year after year to my group cleanses since they enjoy participating in this lifestyle change with others in their community. Engaging in a cleanse can be fun, and invigorating. I encourage you to try it out this year with a friend and reclaim your vitality.