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The transition from winter to spring offers an ideal opportunity to clear out waste—whether you’re cleaning house or removing pollutants from the body. During cold weather, metabolic waste and toxins tend to accumulate in joints, organs, and tissues. This snowdrift of buildup comes from a perfect storm of sedentary winter routines, exposure to viruses, overindulgence in rich foods, and holiday stress. Add to this the steady stream of environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals that we’re exposed to regularly, and we could really use some in-depth detox support as soon as the frost starts to thaw. By following the right steps for total-body cleansing, we can align ourselves with seasonal transitions and clear the pathways for vitality to spring forth.
Step 1: Re-energize your diet
Food may be the most important medicine you have. The right foods can detoxify and heal your body, increase vitality, and add years to your life. The wrong foods are more like illicit drugs: highly addictive and dangerous.
One major advantage of a spring cleanse is that it can help reset your diet. When blood glucose and insulin levels are balanced by eating nutrient-dense, low-glycemic (i.e., low-sugar) foods, unhealthy cravings often vanish. Plus, the increased energy and sense of well-being that can result from healthy eating become key motivators to stick with the program.
A detoxifying diet serves as the foundation for a cleanse. Some tips:
- First, eliminate foods that increase your toxic load. I recommend eliminating animal protein from your diet during a cleanse, but if that’s not practical, then use a small amount of organic, pasture-raised meats and avoid dairy products.
- Eliminate inflammatory foods and beverages—mainly processed foods, refined foods, sugars, and sweeteners, cooked oil and trans fats, excess salt, alcohol, caffeine,
- Emphasize organic food to avoid pesticides and GMOs.
- Eat more fiber as well as organic fruits and vegetables, and vegetable-based proteins. Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are high in nutrition and detoxifying agents like sulfur compounds and chlorophyll.
- Soak and sprout grains, legumes, and nuts for better digestibility, less acidity, and higher nutritional content.
- Don’t forget your friendly flora. Every week it seems that a new study outlines the importance of beneficial bacteria for health. Healthy populations of good bacteria aid detoxification and keep harmful microbes at bay, among other benefits. Probiotic-rich, cultured foods help maintain natural flora. Good choices: sauerkraut, kimchi, and natto.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 64 oz. of fluids—mainly filtered water, herbal teas, and low-sodium, homemade broths. Avoid carbonated beverages; they can interfere with digestion. Fruit juice is also off the list since it can spike blood sugar and thus trigger inflammation.
Step 2: Bind toxins in the body
One concern with many popular detox programs is that they are positioned as a quick fix. But detox is not a quick process, and trying to speed it up can cause problems, aka, a “detox crisis.” Some experts claim such a crisis is a sign the program is working. However, the reality is that people can become weak from the oxidative stress that occurs with methods like extended fasting or harsh detox formulas, which often cause toxins to be released from tissues too quickly. The body doesn’t have a chance to process these toxins, and they get redistributed. In the meantime, you’ll get symptoms like headaches, fatigue, flu symptoms, and others as the body struggles to manage the sudden increase in circulating toxins.
On the other hand, if the burden of toxins being released into our circulation is managed properly, you can achieve a more thorough cleanse with little to no side effects. My recommendation: After adopting a cleansing diet for a week or so, the next step is to help cleanse the blood and digestive tract with compounds that bind and safely eliminate toxins. This strategy helps to clear the way for a more in-depth detox of organs and tissues. It’s kind of like sweeping out surface debris before doing a deeper cleaning.
Here’s what you do: Add supplements that support cleansing
There are several gentle supplements that can support this preliminary cleansing process. Two that I suggest:
- Modified citrus pectin (MCP) from citrus peels and alginates from seaweed: These ingredients can bind to and remove toxic metals, environmental toxins, and even radioactive isotopes from the circulatory system and digestive tract without removing essential minerals. MCP has also been shown in studies to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that supports tissue health and fights cancer.
- Medicinal mushrooms: Mesima, reishi, chaga, and turkey tail mushrooms comprise another class of beneficial supplements for detoxification. They act like sponges to mop up pathogens and toxins, and they support repair and restoration. Medicinal mushrooms and MCP are key detox agents that help bind toxins in the circulatory system, digestive tract, and other areas, and safely eliminate them through the urinary tract and bowels. This helps to prepare the body for deeper detoxification using botanicals and nutrients that enhance the detox functions of the liver, kidneys, skin, and other organs of elimination.
Step 3: Enhance detoxifying organs and functions
After you’ve incorporated a cleansing diet and natural binding agents to help clear out toxins, you’re ready to add targeted detox ingredients that encourage more in-depth detoxification. Some people proceed to this step after just a few days; for others, it may be a few weeks or longer. It depends on your health, toxic burden, and other factors.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Use herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion, astragalus, artichoke, burdock, and ginkgo, as well as alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), and other compounds that support and enhance detox capacity. Choose a cleansing and detox formula that incorporates at least some of these nutrients. By stimulating and optimizing the detox functions of the liver, kidneys, skin, GI tract, lungs and other organs, these nutrients allow for a deeper, more thorough removal of toxins. They also support antioxidant activity to help combat the oxidative stress that can occur during detoxification.
- Exercise. Another way to promote detox is to exercise regularly, which is essential in removing toxins and bringing oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
- Stress relief is also an important and often overlooked aspect of detoxification that can reduce inflammation and toxic body burden. Meditation and mind-body practices like yoga can be excellent adjuncts to a detox program. In today’s world, detox is important—but it doesn’t have to be complicated. With these simple steps, you can safely and effectively remove toxins, prevent their accumulation, and boost health and vitality.
Meditation for detox
A simple meditation practice is an excellent way to enhance your detox program. It allows for the release of old patterns and energies, refreshes the mind, and renews the spirit. Give yourself some quiet time to contemplate what you want to release. Sitting comfortably, focus your breath on a specific object in front of you, like a stone or candle.
As you breathe in, visualize nourishment and light entering your body through your breath. And as you breathe out, visualize the release of toxins, waste, and anything you want to let go. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes if possible. At the end of your meditation, dedicate the merit generated by your practice to benefit all beings. This last part helps us keep an open heart and connectivity, essential components of healing and rejuvenation.