Spring is that time of year when we traditionally purge what is no longer serving us around our home. We clean out cupboards, closets, and drawers. We dust, mop, and freshen up every corner. But, how about a spring cleaning of our body? After all, that “house” is important, too.
We spend the winter months conserving energy, cooking comforting meals, and indulging in holiday sweets. When the days get longer and warmer, we feel an urge to lighten up with fresh, seasonal fruits and cooling foods. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season of rebirth and energy flow, and the process is governed by the liver, our detoxification organ. It only seems fitting that we pull out nature’s broom and get to work.
How Can You Tell If You Need a Reset?
You Constantly Crave Sugar: Skipping meals, consuming refined foods, and unhealthy eating habits all lead to imbalanced blood sugar. It’s a vicious cycle: the more sugar you eat, the more sugar your body (actually, your brain) craves!
Sluggish Digestion: Constipation and bloating can indicate a lack of fibre and fluids that your body needs to keep clean. Remember, fibre is nature’s broom! A cleanse will help move things along.
Bloating and Weight Gain: I get it, we go through cycles and hibernating indoors over the winter months does not help matters. Many factors, like stress and hormones, can also contribute to weight gain. If a high-sugar, low-nutrient diet is one you have been following, it might be time to reset.
Disturbed Sleep: Frequent wake-ups can indicate an imbalance in the body. Your two main sleep/wake hormones, melatonin and cortisol, are processed by the liver. If you are under constant stress, your cortisol levels remain elevated. This puts stress on the liver, making it more difficult to produce melatonin to fall, and stay, asleep.
Frequent Colds: Your immune system can become compromised from poor diet, high stress, some medications, and lack of sleep. Frequent illnesses are a good indication that you might need a cleanse to populate healthy gut bacteria, vitamins, and minerals.
Unhappy Skin: Breakouts, rashes, and itchy patches can indicate that your liver is working hard. Your liver and skin are two of your detoxification organs, working together to rid the body of what it does not need. If your body is full of toxins or excess hormones that need clearing out, it shows up on your skin.
What Does a Cleanse Look Like?
There are many types of cleanses, resets, and detox programs. Some restrict calories or certain foods, some include herbal supplements, and some have you fasting for days. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I recommend transitioning into a cleanse that feels less like a fad diet. After all, food is where we are going to get the nutrients, energy, and enzymes to support the cleansing process. One thing you must consider, however, is the type of food you choose to eat.
There are specific foods to avoid while on a cleanse, like those that promote inflammation and disturb your blood sugar balance. Typically, gluten, dairy, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and excessive amounts of caffeine are on this list.
In turn, include fresh, whole foods that do not come in a package. Foods that contain liver-supporting enzymes to aid in the breakdown of built-up toxins, plus immune-boosting veggies and herbs, will set you up for success. In order to properly clear toxins, you have to build up your immune system. These phases work together, so plan your meals with this in mind.
What Can You Expect While On a Cleanse?
You can expect to feel symptoms during the first few days of a cleansing program. While you are consciously cutting out inflammatory foods, your blood sugar is adjusting. You might feel headaches, fatigue, skin breakouts, disturbed sleep, and cravings. This is why it is important to prep as much food as you can, gather all your groceries, review the plan, and not schedule any big events during your cleanse. Find a support partner in a friend, partner, or Nutrition Coach. Prepare to rest as you allow your body to adjust and repair.
Once you get over the “hump”, it’s usually all downhill from there. When your blood sugar is regulated, and your body is being nourished with whole foods, your sweet cravings should dissipate, your energy levels should increase, and many people report less joint pain. There is also the added bonus of less belly bloat and a more comfortable, healthy weight.
Post-cleanse, you can slowly reintroduce some foods that you had swapped out, but expect some of those old symptoms to return. Take it as a sign! This is your body—your home — trying to tell you what it does not need. Grab nature’s broom and get ready for another “spring cleaning”, no matter what time of year.
Jen Casey is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP), Fitness Instructor and Holistic Health Coach. She has been working in the field of holistic and alternative health for years, and has her own practice, Bite Club Nutrition. Her passion for clean beauty products and green living has brought her to several TV segments, a skin care business, and published articles on the subject. Jen’s approach to health is gentle, yet targeted. She aims to get to the root of the concern, while using stress management, quality sleep, balanced nutrition, mindset, non-toxic living and movement as part of her tools. She believes that each individual has specific needs when it comes to whole body wellness, and she builds her recommendations around these. When Jen is not in the office, she is being a mom to her 2 children and dog. You will likely run into her at the beach or in the woods with a smoothie in hand, or find her in the kitchen whipping up natural beauty products from food.
This article was published in The Good Life magazine.