Spring Cleansing!

The sun is shining! The scent of jasmine wafts gloriously on the gentle ocean breeze. The desert awash with color; cactus and mustard, poppy and lilac all abundantly abloom. Naturally awakening to bright morning light, energy flowing through plant and human alike.

A transition season, a season for clearing the metabolic waste from a winter spent in darkness, expending energy to stay warm, a season for new beginnings, a season for growth.

In balance, this Spring energy brings with it an enlivening, healthy growth, creativity, inspiration and the ability to metabolize easily, clear our waste and enter our summer with lightness and clarity.

Out of balance, we see other issues crop up in the Spring. Spring colds and flus take hold with a vengeance. Allergies flare. Tumors grow. For some, Spring brings a sense of imbalance, as if our “crazy” gets the best of us. For some, Spring brings a lethargy, a reserve, a darkness so at odds with the seasonal return of light. Anger and irritability may arise. Our bodies may feel heavy and uncooperative, our lymph and fascia congested and restricted.

What is our body doing in the Spring that can contribute to such different states of balance or imbalance? In early Spring, there is a relaunching of thyroid activity. The thyroid is involved in setting the metabolic rate of each cell to allow for the production of energy. The thyroid facilitates the catabolism or breaking down activity of nutrients, especially lipids (fats) to be used for energy production. Thyroid activity is generally more robust in the winter to support staying warm during the cold months. There is a slight dip as we come out of winter, and then a surge of thyroid activity to facilitate the normal detoxification necessary for the release of winter stagnancy and the move into summer, a time of heat, sun and an inherent diminished demand for thyroid activity.

All of this occurs outside of a disease state and outside of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. This is normal physiology. This Spring surge of thyroid activity allows for the balanced state to be maintained as mentioned above. We clear our winter debris. There is a renewed energy and surge to push through the frozen ground and come to bloom. The debris that has accumulated and kept our roots warm and nourished through the winter can be shed aside inviting fresh growth and regeneration in the Spring.

In order to facilitate this detoxification, the organs of elimination; the liver, kidney and colon must work efficiently.

In the imbalanced state, if someone has an insufficient ability to relaunch his/her thyroid activity, we may see an increase in phlegm, in respiratory disorders, in allergic symptoms. If someone tends to excessively relaunch thyroid activity, we may see a surge in the growth of a tumor, a worsening of an auto-immune state or a flare of a recurrent disease. Mood states can also vary depending on the efficiency of thyroid activity and thyroid response to the stimulation from the hypothalamus and the pituitary.

If the liver, kidney or colon are congested or inefficient or overtaxed in their ability to detoxify, we may also see symptoms arise in the Spring during this time of natural detoxification.
This is why Spring is such a powerful time for cleansing. It is also an important time to work with you doctor if you have cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies, recurrent colds and flus, or mood disorders as these may be aggravated with the change of season. Preparing a treatment that you begin prior to the early Spring transitions can be very useful in mitigating these issues.

However, even for the healthiest, most well balanced person, a gentle awareness of the work the body is doing during this season will facilitate more optimal health.

This can be supported with a Spring cleanse, facilitated and made easier by the warmth of the sun, the longer days, the energy inherent in the budding, thriving earth.

There are several types of liver cleanses, varying from water fasting to juicing to a whole foods cleanse that simply gives the digestive system a bit of a break. There are a number of liver cleanse supplements and products and programs on the market. Some are useful. Some are not. Most are based on four major tenets:

* Rest the digestive tract while supplying minerals and vitamins helpful for detoxification.
* Support optimal liver detoxification.
* Support healthy colon elimination
* Support lymphatic circulation

The best method for each person is very dependent on your overall physiology.

For your Diet:
If you tend toward being cold, thin, nervous, anxious, dry, quick thinking, changing your mind easily, and tend to over-commit and perhaps then feel overwhelmed (or for those of you familiar with Ayurveda, have a predominant vata dosha); a water or pure juice fast is not in your best interest. It is important to eat cooked foods, and get plenty of fiber and warm water to support healthy colon elimination and keep your body warm and energy grounded and calm.

If you tend to be very fiery, have a lot of inflammation, find yourself angry or intensely competitive, intelligent and very driven (a predominantly pitta dosha); a fast of cooling juices or water, or very light foods may serve you well.

If you tend to be strong, steady, perhaps gain weight easily and have a hard time losing, prefer stillness over action, have an excellent long-term memory, prefer and seek stability over change, and have a tendency toward dampness; a cleanse rich in vegetables is beautiful for you, but preferably not raw. Avoiding grains, dairy, sugars and fats is a must. Also, you may need to cleanse for a longer period of time, with a limited diet, to allow for your naturally very deeply stored toxins to be released.

Please visit the handouts page for a Spring Cleanse worksheet which gives basic recommendations for foods to eat and foods to avoid on a Spring Cleanse. Whether you choose to eat whole foods during this time, or juice, or do a short water fast, this list will facilitate the choices you make. I recommend any fast which involves only water to be done under the supervision of your naturopathic doctor for the appropriate timing, pre-fast and post-fast recommendations.

For the Liver:

Castor oil packs are a simple, beautiful way to support healthy liver detoxification during a cleanse. Please see the handouts page for castor oil pack directions.

Herbal support: Taking a liver cleansing supplement, drinking detox tea, taking or drinking milk thistle and/or dandelion tea, consuming turmeric in a supplement, tea or food form, and the nutritional support above will all assist in liver detoxification during this time. Working with your provider on the most effective supplement for you is highly recommended.

For the Colon:

Fiber and water are essential parts of any cleanse. If you are eating large amounts of fiber in the form of vegetables, you may or may not need additional fiber support while cleansing. But, taking additional fiber in the form of psyllium and ground flax seed can be very helpful.

Drinking at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of warm or room temperature water is necessary during a cleanse. Some of this may be consumed in herbal tisanes.

For the Lymph:

The lymphatics help the body clear its garbage. The lymph vessels are stimulated through the contraction of muscles. Below are four therapies which assist in lymphatic movement and drainage.
Dry skin brushing or Abyanga massage.
Gentle exercise: walking, rebounding, swimming, dancing, and yoga. You may need to reduce your exercise regimen during a cleanse due to the reduced caloric intake. Listen to your body. If you do not normally exercise, a gentle walk every day will be very beneficial.
Lymphatic massage, provided by massage therapists trained in lymphatic drainage.
Sauna can also be useful during a cleanse to facilitate clearing from the skin.

Sleep (to support all of the above):
During sleep, our body is doing the majority of its detoxification. During a cleanse, it is wise to stop eating 3 hours before bed, and then be in bed before 10pm and maintain 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Other cleansing tips:
When Spring cleansing it can be useful to look at the other habits and patterns which may have become stagnant, rigid or dysfunctional through the winter months. This might include reducing your reliance on technology for a period of time while cleansing, paying attention to your routine, journaling, meditating, creative expression, rest, time with friends and family, anything that nourishes your soul deeply and restoratively.

For support on your cleanse, please work with your healing team, or give us a call at Soaring Crane. May your Spring bring fragrant blossoms of joy.

Dr Amy