Health & Wellness

Nutritionally Speaking: Spring cleaning

Later this month, we will officially enter my favorite season: Spring! Just as we may have excess ”stuff” that has built up around the house and garage during our long winter season, we may have some extra baggage we carry around in weight and toxins.
Just as it feels great to clean up our surroundings, maybe a prelude to gardening, mowing and being outside more as the weather warms, many people also enjoy an internal cleansing diet as we begin spring, and in the process shed some of those extra pounds and toxins that have built up during the winter and get our bodies ready for summer activities, hiking, biking or just a stroll in the neighborhood…finally without our umbrellas.
Our bodies are constantly working hard to maintain balance, or equilibrium and part of that process is our innate ability to rid ourselves of toxins. We do so with each breath as we exhale, when we perspire and of course in the restroom as we eliminate.
There is a lot of energy used by our body’s day-to-day detoxifying processes. When we do a cleanse such as the Master Cleanse (AKA Lemonade Fast), we are not using a lot of energy to digest this liquid diet, so there is more energy available for a deeper cleaning and detoxification.
Let’s explore how our body’s detoxification processes free our vital cellular and organ activities to function productively and efficiently. We have five systems that are involved in detoxification:
First, we have the cardiovascular system which links all of our organs via our blood. The blood flows throughout our bodies, oxygenating and sending nutrients to each cell. Our blood also carries communication molecules and cleanses our liver, a major site of detoxification. Our blood is sensitive to toxins, and once poisoned can deposit toxins throughout the body.
Our lymph system also flows throughout our bodies via our lymph nodes and filters out bacteria, viruses and other organic matter. Some refer to the lymph system as a pre-filter for the liver, keeping the liver from being overloaded. After the filtering process the lymph is returned to our bloodstream thru the thoracic duct. Our lymph does not have a pump like our hearts, and we support this flow with regular movement.
Besides the physical breakdown of foods, our digestive tract eliminates undigested food, filters food and intestinal bacteria, and removes toxic substances. The major organs of detoxification are the kidneys, intestines, liver and gallbladder. The intestines are a physical barrier, stopping foreign molecules and other toxins from entering our bodies. The liver is the body’s major organ for cleansing the blood. In the liver toxins are neutralized, and they then pass to the gallbladder to be absorbed by the bile for elimination through our feces.
There are two phases of detoxification; in Phase I enzymes break toxins down to get them ready for elimination, and in Phase II some toxins such as caffeine need even more processing before being eliminated.
Our kidneys act as filters for the blood and work hard to remove cellular waste. The sweat glands throughout our bodies act as an important avenue of elimination. When we exercise or use a sauna, we have a great opportunity to remove toxins through our sweat. Finally, we have our lungs that eliminate a variety of wastes, mainly carbon dioxide, from our bodies.
In his popular book, ”The New Detox Diet,” Dr. Elson Haas more thoroughly explores the reasons for and methods of cleansing and detoxifying our bodies, helping us understand when to do what type of cleanse. For spring, he suggests the Master Cleanse, originally developed by Dr. Stanley Burroughs, MD. This is a simple cleanse program consisting of fresh squeezed lemon juice, dark amber maple syrup, cayenne powder and fresh filtered water.

The Master Cleanse recipe:
2 Tbsp organic, freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 to 2 Tbsp pure (dark amber) maple syrup
1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
8 ounces spring or filtered water
Mix and drink eight to 12 glasses throughout the day.

Eat nothing else with this but include water, a laxative herb tea (Smooth Move) if needed, and peppermint, chamomile or green tea. Keep the mixture in the fridge in a glass container or make it fresh each time. This a great spring cleanse to do for three to 10 days or longer, or even just one day a week.
The lemon juice supplies vitamins and minerals, and the dark amber maple syrup supplies energy from simple sugars and minerals. The cayenne helps with energy, and while spicy, helps to heal mucous membranes in our digestive tract. The laxative teas (such as Smooth Move from Traditional Medicinals) help avoid temporary constipation.
Dr. Haas suggests that after the cleanse for a couple of days it is best to eat steamed vegetables with whole grains such as brown rice (or winter squash and sweet potatoes if you are avoiding grains) and broth to ease our systems into digesting solid foods. You should notice more energy, maybe less weight, clearer skin, and that you will be looking for healthier food choices after your cleanse. Salud!

Important Note: If you are under a physician’s treatment, always check with them before starting any cleansing programs or diets.

At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at:



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