Spring Cleaning: Body and Mind
When the weather warms up, we get the urge to clean: sweep away the accumulations of winter and start spring bright and clean.
That can apply to our bodies as well as our homes. In winter, we tend to eat heavy foods, a practice that answers an innate call to keep warm. Since ancient times, cultural and religious practices have encouraged a fast or body cleanse as a way of changing to the lighter foods of spring and summer.
Do we really need to spring clean our bodies?
We live in a potentially toxic environment. Toxins are present in our air, water, food, and even in our own bodies (byproducts of our own metabolism). Our bodies are well-equipped to handle and eliminate toxins through four systems:
- Fecal and urinary
Highly processed food puts the body through rigorous detoxification, stressing all physical systems, especially the liver. We can make it easier on our bodies by eliminating processed food from our diet, as well as avoiding pesticide residues, synthetic dyes, and xenobiotics.
By following a diet that is rich in fresh foods and fiber (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains), we reduce the quantity of toxins the body must eliminate. In addition, the liver depends on the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients readily found in fresh foods in order to function effectively.
Does fasting enhance the body’s ability to clear toxins?
There is little to no evidence in the medical literature to support fasting. In theory, toxins are released during fasting from the fat/liver into the blood stream which are then excreted. Problems can potentially arise:
- Toxins can reach high levels in the blood.
- Toxins can overload the liver’s detoxification pathways.
Often, people pursue a fast to lose weight. Although many do experience a loss, it is usually water weight which is quickly regained after the fast. In addition, fasting tends to slow down the metabolism making post-fast weight loss more difficult.
What kind of fasts or cleanses are there?
Two of the most popular fasts or cleanses are:
- Master Cleanse: Popularized by Beyonce and Oprah, this very restrictive diet requires drinking a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water 6-12 times a day. Not recommended.
- Juice Fast/Cleanse: A more gentle cleanse requiring consumption of 4 – 8 (12oz) glasses of juice a day. The juice should be organic, freshly made, and consumed within an hour of preparation. Filtered water and herbal teas are also acceptable (but caffeinated coffee and alcoholic beverages are not). Drinking juice helps to counter side effects such as lightheadedness, fatigue, or headaches. Recommended only for short duration: 1-3 days.
Ways to Enhance the bodies Cleansing System Include:
- Sauna: The regular use of a sauna (5 – 15 minutes per day) may help metabolize toxins from fat into the bloodstream and facilitate detoxification by lowering oxidative stress.
- Exercise: Cardiovascular exercise enhances detoxification through sweating and increased breathing. All exercise (aerobic and anaerobic) enhances adipose tissue blood flow and increases liberation of stored toxins.
- Rest: An often overlooked remedy, rest provides respite to the mind as well as the gastrointestinal tract.
Important! Get support from your health care provider before starting a fast or cleanse. Fasts and cleanses are not recommended for conditions such as diabetes, pregnancy, and during lactation. Also, some medications may be adversely affected by taking liver protectants and supplements.
We know we should be eating a cleansing diet every day. However, you may discover other benefits to trying a juice cleanse for a few days. It may help you get back on the clean eating track if you have fallen off. You may find that you have more energy, not less, because your body is not putting forth so much effort to clean itself. And, because you are spending less time preparing and eating food, you can use this time for rest and meditation.
Time spent in meditation or reflection may be the best type of cleanse you can do, and a great way to welcome the blossoming beauty of spring.