by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer
This is a great time to clear away toxins that clutter our bodies. We may not be able to see them, but we can sure feel them. A spring cleanse and detoxification program offers us an opportunity to refresh and renew ourselves on every level.
Toxins are everywhere: pesticides, household products, processed foods, tap water, airborne pollutants. Poor diet and lack of exercise can compound their effects on us, disturbing the delicate balances in our bodies and causing stomach problems, allergic reactions, lowered immunity, headaches, joint pain, mental fog, anxiety, and irritability, along with other chronic issues. Much more worrisome, though, is that research is linking environmental toxins to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, and much more.
Don’t accept these problems as an inevitable part of life and the aging process. They’re not—as long as we fight back. One of the first steps is a gentle cleanse.
The Changing Seasons
I recommend a spring cleanse because it puts us in tune with the seasons in our environment. For thousands of years, Chinese medicine and other traditional healing practices have recognized the relationships between seasonal changes and our bodies. Spring is a time of rebirth and an amazing opportunity to harness that transformative energy of renewal.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) outlines the relationship between seasons and specific organs. For example, spring relates to the liver and gallbladder, the organs that are essential to detoxifying the body. But sometimes they need a little help.
Start with Diet
A healthy diet is the ultimate “wonder drug,” preventing disease, supporting natural biological systems, and simply making us feel better. The following dietary suggestions are part of a cleanse, but even more importantly, they can also be incorporated into a permanent eating plan to enhance long-term health and vitality.
- Reduce your intake of animal protein, particularly red meat and dairy. Eliminate factory-farmed animal products, since they are laden with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics. Instead, focus on organic plant proteins and green vegetables. These can be eaten raw, steamed, or sautéed in liquid. Also avoid foods that promote inflammation, including sugar, trans fats, alcohol, processed foods, and caffeine.
- Incorporate alkaline foods. One side effect of cold weather is that acidity builds up in blood and in a variety of tissues, causing aches and pains and reduced immunity. Alkalizing foods, such as cucumber, kale, sea vegetables, parsley, sprouts, spinach, avocado, and broccoli, are all excellent to counter acidity and help the body shed toxins.
- Always hydrate. That means fresh water, herbal teas, and vegetable broths. Also include fiber, which will help to eliminate toxins from the digestive system. Rice bran, chia seeds, and flax are good sources. In addition, probiotic foods support healthy flora in the digestive tract. Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, coconut kiefer, and other fermented foods and drinks offer good sources of healthy probiotics. Supplementing with a high-quality probiotic supplement is also very helpful during a cleanse, as well as afterward.
Exercise and Mindfulness
Next to a good diet, exercise is the most important thing we can do to ensure good health. During a cleanse, exercise performs two important functions. First, it boosts metabolism and circulation to help the body eliminate toxins. Second, it reduces body fat, which is notorious for storing toxins. Keep it simple: Take a walk, climb the stairs, play with the kids. The important thing is regular movement.
Just as we need to remove physical toxins, most of us also have mental and emotional “baggage” that needs to be released, or else it burdens our well-being. The stress, anxiety, and neural hyperactivity that are part of modern life actually inhibit physical detoxification and weaken health in numerous areas. Studies have even shown that pessimism can negatively affect aspects of our genetic expression, increasing our risk of cancer and other diseases.
Mindfulness practices—meditation, yoga, hikes in nature—calm our busy minds and reduce stress. They are also proven to reduce cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and improve numerous areas of health, including cognitive function, cardiovascular wellness, immunity, and more. Essentially, mindfulness practices support our innate detoxification capacities and boost overall health.
Some Helpful Supplements
Select botanical supplements can increase and support the detoxification process. In my clinical practice, I always start with modified citrus pectin (MCP) and alginates, which eliminate heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins in the digestive tract and circulatory system. They also reduce inflammation and support strong immunity.
Toxins find ways to hide throughout the body, and we need to pursue a comprehensive approach to cleanse them from organs and other tissues. Medicinal mushrooms (Coriolus versicolor, Gandoderma lucidum, Grifola frondosa, Phellinus linteus, and Cordyceps sinensis) remove toxins and support immunity. I also recommend a more in-depth detox formula containing ingredients like garlic, lipoic acid, milk thistle, dandelion, cilantro, N-acytl-cysteine, and traditional Chinese herbs. These ingredients help to pull toxins and heavy metals from organs and tissues; modified citrus pectin and alginates bind to these toxins in the circulation and digestion to safely eliminate them from the body.
Lemon also helps remove toxins and is an excellent tonic for the liver and gall bladder. I recommend an olive oil and lemon mixture to support further detoxification. Blend an organic lemon, 1¼ cups fresh water, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Partially strain the mixture, leaving some pulp. This refreshing cleansing tonic also helps improve skin tone and texture and supports deep, restful sleep.
In addition, plant-based ingredients like cardamom, pomegranate, licorice, and cinnamon and enzymes like amylase, lipase, and protease accelerate detoxification and support healthy digestion.
Make a Plan
Remember, a spring cleanse is a wonderful opportunity to refresh and renew yourself. The program can be as short as three days or can be continued up to 21 days or longer, but I find most people do best with a 10- to 14-day cleanse. Create some healthy detoxification meal recipes and incorporate them into a plan. Stock up on appropriate supplements. Schedule specific times to exercise. The workout doesn’t need to be strenuous; a 30-minute walk each day will do just fine. And importantly, make room for meditation. At first these efforts may seem difficult, but as you begin to shed toxins, the vitality and energy you receive in return will increase your momentum, and chances are you’ll be hooked on good health for life! So refresh, renew, and enjoy the transformative process! Happy spring!
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.