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It’s Time for a Detoxifying Spring Cleanse!

Spring is nearly upon us! For many, it is time to open the windows, let in the fresh air, and begin the arduous task of spring cleaning.  It is time empty the cabinets, clean out the basement and attic, and turn our homes into clean peaceful spaces.  At this time of organizing our external world many of us look within and also feel a need to cleanse our bodies, purging all of the toxins and unwanted fat that has accumulated over our winter of hibernation and holiday. Understanding our body’s natural ability to cleanse and detoxify is a vital part of every Detoxification Cleanse.

First I would like to suggest a metaphor that reflects the most current thinking on the concept of a “cleanse”.  When I was young, my town had an annual tradition celebrating the concurrent spring cleaning purge that accompanied the coming of Spring.  This day was affectionately known to the kids in town as “big trash day”.   Once per year all the residents of the town would rid their homes of all the unwanted items that the trash collection service would not normally collect and at the end of each driveway were mountainous piles of tires, lawnmowers, lumber, and other toxic substances.  I remember a sense of satisfaction reclaiming a formally inaccessible corner of the attic or basement.

Our current paradigm around cleansing suggests to us that we are to engage in one tremendous “big trash day” to purify our blood and liver and reclaim the internal spaces within ourselves to experience optimal health.  Cleansing, for many people refers to a set period of time that they set aside for detoxification. Although this can be very beneficial and I encourage annual or seasonal cleansing, I invite you to take a new perspective and consider instead, how you can feel healthier and more radiant on a daily basis. Instead of prescribing a single product or regimen, I try to encourage my patients to understand the natural physiological cleansing process of the body. If you understand how your body detoxifies itself then you will be able to incorporate cleansing into your daily life. In actuality, your body is working hard on detoxification every day of your life.

Our body is designed to naturally rid itself of toxins and excess fat. We call these physiological pathways “detoxification and metabolism pathways” and the organs responsible are the “organs of elimination”. Our skin, kidneys, liver, colon, and lungs are among the most effective organs at eliminating toxins from our body. When designing a Cleanse it is important to consider each of these organs and how they work.

The skin is our largest and strongest organ of elimination. Our skin eliminates toxins through sweat. Incorporating exercise and/or sauna into your cleanse can be one of the most effective ways to detoxify the body. The kidneys and urinary tract are also very important in the elimination process, and are responsible for creating urine, which is another pathway of detoxification. Increasing our daily water intake is vital to a good cleanse for both the skin and the kidney’s. I usually encourage my patients to drink half of their body weight in ounces of fresh pure water daily, particularly when cleansing. 

Our gastrointestinal and biliary tract is incredibly effective at detoxifying the body and our food. Increasing both soluble and insoluble fiber in the diet while eating healthy nutrient-dense foods help to bind cholesterol and toxins and remove them from the gut. This is an integral part of every Cleanse. Your naturopathic doctor or nutritionist can help you decide if fasting or juicing might be ideal for your particular body and situation. Regardless of the cleansing diet that you choose, regular bowel movements are critical for a strong cleanse.

Our liver is the most well known organ of detoxification and for good reason. The liver is the powerhouse of metabolism and breakdown, of our food, medications, alcohol, hormones, and every other metabolite that enters or is made within the body that has the potential to be toxic. Restoring, healing, and stimulating the liver are essential components of an effective detoxifying Cleanse. Luckily, there are many herbal medicines and supplements that can help with this but not all are created equally. Milk Thistle, Cynara (Artichoke), Yellowdock, and Burdock are wonderful detoxifying herbs and the first actually aids in the healing and restoration of your liver! In choosing a product for your liver, seek the guidance of a naturopathic doctor or herbalist in your area.

            Finally, the organ known least for detoxification is the lungs. Our lungs detoxify our blood with every breath that we take by changing our blood pH and gas concentrations. Slow, deep, intentional breathing sessions support our body’s process of elimination.  Meditation and yogic breathing can be beneficial not only in teaching us how to breathe but to facilitate us in the process of detoxifying other aspects of our life, such as negativity and criticality, especially of ourselves.

There may be many products that may be helpful in your cleanse this season, many containing various forms of fiber, greens, and detoxifying herbs. It is important to get help from your doctor in determining which product would best suite your goals. The Herbal Path staff, nutritionists, and herbalists may also be good resources when choosing products.

Lastly, the most important part of a detoxification protocol is how quickly to proceed and how to end it. Supporting our organs with rest and with the practices listed above is an essential part of the cleansing process so that your body can handle its toxic load. In other words, if your body is the bathtub and your organs of elimination are the drain, we want to support the drainage so that we do not get a back-up of toxins in our blood stream. This can be even more dangerous then living with the toxins imbedded in your tissues! This is why having your healthcare provider on board is so important and also why it is important to find a natural health doctor or nutritionist that can support you in the process. Towards the end of your cleanse, it is important that you continue with some of the supporting practices listed above as you introduce your old way of eating and living back into your life. My hope for you, is that you will find that you feel so healthy, energized, and radiant that you choose to let go of old habits that no longer serve your health, and take on new habits that help you to feel great all year round!

Happy Cleansing!

Dr. Emily Miller, ND