After a long, cold winter, chances are you have overindulged in not-so-nutritious foods. There’s no need to get down on yourself or feel guilty for eating dishes you couldn’t resist. After all, the holidays are all about family festivities, which almost always involves good food – and lots of it!
Now that you’ve enjoyed a few months of warm apple pie, hot chocolate and Netflix, it’s time to press the reset button and gradually get back into a healthy routine.
Spring is an excellent season for a detox program, especially if your liver has been working overtime these past few months.
Not only can a cleanse help get rid of the holiday bloat, it’s an excellent way to get back into a healthy routine.
With seasonal shifts, our bodies need gentle cleansing – not the kind that involves drinking lemon water with maple syrup. By gentle, I mean using natural, organic detox herbs and eating a variety of delicious, nourishing whole foods.
When the right herbs are combined with specific foods, the body’s natural cleansing abilities are awakened.
A sluggish liver that is overburdened with toxins begins to work better. And, all you have to do to support the detoxification process is provide your body with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
In other words, as long as you prepare cleanse-friendly meals and snacks, the herbs will do the work. If you’re not too savvy in the kitchen, you can always join a community cooking class to learn how to make food that is not only healthy, but tastes good too.
Since many people are turned off by the word “detox”, let’s start by acknowledging that detoxification does not equate to deprivation.
For the last decade in my clinical practice, I’ve helped patients effectively remove toxins, while enjoying the foods they love. The programs that I recommend are not liquid diets, nor do they involve counting calories. I believe that counting calories does nothing more than improve math skills.
In this day and age, we should be counting chemicals, not calories.
Detoxification is recommended by naturopathic doctors (ND’s) to improve the health of vital organs, ensure optimal physical function, and support emotional wellbeing. Naturopathic doctors use food and detoxifying botanicals to strengthen the body’s immune system, improve digestion, and restore the body back to health. It is not only used to promote optimal wellness, in many cases, detoxification is the first step in a treatment protocol as cleaning up the system is a key piece in healing.
Naturopathic doctors believe that the human body has the capacity to heal itself and what we eat profoundly affects our health.
This concept is not new.
In fact, for 2,200 years, medicine was practiced based on this exact same principle founded by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
He believed in the healing forces of nature and he could connect any ailment to poor nutrition, toxicity in the gut, or vitamin deficiencies.
To this day, his philosophy has lived – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Since diseases manifest and thrive in a toxic internal environment, it is imperative to support the body’s detoxification pathways – mainly the liver, the colon, and the kidneys.
Let’s review the five key principles of Spring detoxing.
Reduce Toxins Coming In
The first step of your Spring detox involves reducing exposure to external toxins. Avoid chemicals as much as possible and read all labels.
You may be surprised with some of the ingredients found in common household items, personal care products, and possibly some of your favourite goodies. Try to purchase natural and organic products in order to avoid pesticides, preservatives, additives, and harmful chemicals.
It’s best to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and phlegm-forming foods such as dairy, sugar, and refined starches.
Enhance Toxins Moving Out
Hepatoprotective herbs support detoxification through the liver, which is the most important organ of cleansing.
Your liver works 24/7 to process almost everything you ingest, breathe, and absorb through your skin. The following three detoxifying herbs have been used universally to assist with the elimination of toxins.
- Milk Thistle is used to support liver function, bile production, and bile flow. It protects the health of specialized liver cells called Kupffer cells, which remove toxins from the blood supply.
- Dandelion Root has anti-microbial properties and promotes healthy bile flow, therefore assisting with the elimination of toxic waste.
- Burdock Root is a nourishing blood purifier that assists with the excretion of impurities through various eliminatory routes, particularly the skin.
Eat Foods That Support The Detox Process
Naturopathic doctors use nutrient-rich, easily digestible foods that fuel the body to boost toxin removal. Certain foods place a burden on the digestive system and slow down the elimination process.
It’s no surprise that a twelve ounce sirloin steak is more difficult to break down than an organic spinach salad. You want to eat foods that support the detox process, rather than hinder it.
Remember that the body requires the following nutrients to carry out important cleansing tasks – protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Lacking in any one of these macronutrients can affect how your body is able to cope with the removal of toxins.
Think about the amount of energy that you need to clean your home.
Your body is no different. It also requires energy to carry out vital cleansing tasks.
During your Spring detox program, I encourage you to choose fiber-rich root vegetables that are high in antioxidants, such as beets. Not only do beets assist with regenerating liver cells, beets contain pectin, a form of fiber that helps absorb toxins to be flushed out of the body.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and prevent them from harming healthy cells in the body.
This is especially important since detoxification can wake up free radicals. Include a wide variety of nuts and seeds, lean protein, and healthy fats such as raw coconut oil and avocados.
Here is a list of recommended foods to include on your detox grocery list.
- apples, berries, and pears
- Brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli and cabbage
- sweet potatoes and squash
- beets and parsnips
- garlic and onions
- Jerusalem artichokes and leeks
In addition, I recommend adding a variety of spices and herbs to your foods such as ginger, parsley, oregano, mint, cinnamon and turmeric. These herbs and spices not only carry a multitude of healing properties, they add plenty of flavor to your favourite dishes.
Increase Your Intake of Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir support a healthier gut. Since 70-80 percent of the immune system is found in the gut, a healthy digestive system is fundamental.
In addition to eating fermented foods, supplement your diet with a high quality probiotic that will help improve immune function and replenish good bacteria. Beneficial gut bacteria works to protect the intestinal lining from being damaged and assists with keeping pathogens, toxins, and food particles out of the bloodstream.
Practice Meditation and Letting Go
Holding on to anything that no longer serves you could potentially impact your health. Negative emotions can affect your well-being all the way down to the cellular level.
Spend at least ten minutes a day clearing your mind and releasing negative thoughts. Practice yoga, go for nature walks, or read a good book while sipping fenugreek tea.
Ujjayi breathing is practiced in yoga and is a breathing technique that reduces stress, calms the mind, and strengthens the lungs.
This breathing technique can be very beneficial for eliminating respiratory waste during your cleanse.
More than 75,000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment within the past fifty years.
As a result of these harmful chemicals, we have seen an increase in chronic health conditions and people are getting sicker every day.
The toxic load is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and unfortunately, toxic chemicals are showing up everywhere, from the sunscreen we slather on our skin to the detergent we wash our clothes with.
Although it may seem impossible to avoid these toxic substances, thankfully, Mother Nature has supplied us with all that we need to be healthy.