Episode 079: Renewing Your Health With A Spring Cleanse
The vernal equinox, also known as the Spring Equinox, marks the shift from longer nights to longer days. It marks new beginnings and represents renewal, growth, and expansion. It’s the season to awaken from the slumber of winter and it the perfect time to do a cleanse or detox.
In this episode, I share how to go about doing a cleanse or detox:
The best foods that are in season to eat
Foods to avoid
Body support practices to enhance your cleanse / detox experience
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Hi friend! Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast! I’m your host, Naomi Nakamura.
If you’re listening to this episode at the time of its airing, on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, and I gotta throw the year in there because podcast episodes live forever, then you know that tomorrow is the first day of Spring! It’s the Spring equinox, which is also known as the vernal equinox!
I didn’t know exactly what this mean so I did a quick search on Wikipedia and read that:
“An equinox is commonly regarded as the instant of time when the Earth's equator passes through the center of the Sun. It’s the moment at which the center of the visible Sun is directly above the Equator. In the northern hemisphere, the equinox in March is called the Vernal or Spring Equinox; the September equinox is called the Autumnal or Fall Equinox.”
So essentially this means that the length of day and night is equal, and marks the shift from longer nights to longer days.
The vernal equinox has been celebrated for decades and I imagine especially anciently because it means more daylight to till the ground, tend to livestock and their ability to provide sustenance for themselves.
When you think of Spring, you think of blossoming flowers, butterflies and birds chirping because Spring marks new beginnings! It represents renewal, growth, and expansion.
It’s the season to awaken from the slumber of winter. In last week’s episode on sleep, I talked about our natural circadian rhythms and during the spring, this shifts as the sun comes up earlier, so do we.
The plants and trees start to bloom and turn green again and young plants start to grow.
Holistically, your body naturally wants to cleanse itself. Our bodies naturally require more layers during the winter to protect and sustain us and so when spring comes around, it naturally wants to rid itself of any physical excess, as well as dissatisfying emotions. Its a season for renewal, growth, and expansion.
I’m not an expert in Chinese medicine, but I’ve done a lot of reading about it and In Traditional Chinese Medicine, every season supports different organs. And I talked a little about this back in Episode 045 if you want to check that out.
But specifically, Spring honors the liver and the gallbladder. And I devoted an entire episode, Episode 062, to the liver and why it’s the workhorse of your body.
Your liver and gallbladder, they work together in harmony to support your immune system and digestive system - remember the digestive and immune systems are intricately connected because upwards of 70% of your immune system is IN your digestive system, so you cannot talk about one without considering the other.
Your liver is responsible for filtering and removing harmful substances in your body. It has hundreds of metabolic jobs, which it cannot do well if it’s overburdened with toxins.
These would be things like toxins that you can pick up from your food, your immediate environment whether that be in your home, outside your home, from the air that your breathe to the ingredients that you’re putting on your skin to excess hormones - basically anything that can disrupt the way your body is supposed to function.
Your liver also supports the flow of energy through your body AND your mind. It works to keep your moods balanced. So when your liver is functioning properly, you don’t feel any stress or tension, rather you feel calmness, and clarity.
However, when your liver isn’t functioning properly, when it’s congested, stagnant (these are terms you’ll hear TCM professionals use a lot), or when it’s overburdened, all the things I just mentioned that the liver does, doesn’t happen.
Physically, this can manifest as skin problems like acne or eczema. It can show up as digestive dysfunction, or even cardiovascular problems.
Emotionally, liver congestion can manifest through anger, impatience, frustration and even arrogance. If you've found yourself feeling irrationally angry, give your liver some support and see what happens.
Doing a Spring detox or cleanse can help you release these unhappy emotions. Allowing emotional toxins to surface and be released is just as important as the physical side of the detox.
If you find emotions coming up, give yourself the space to process them. Old feelings of anger or resentment may come in waves as you release the physical toxins. Allow the emotions to filter away as you recharge and renew yourself. It can bring you a sense of calm and peace so that you feel lighter, happier, and even perhaps more focused and thus productive.
So that’s a lot of talk about your liver, but it’s also the season for your gallbladder. A lot of people think the gallbladder isn’t necessary because we can survive without one. There’s a lot of people in my family who have had their gallbladders removed.
But just because you can live without a gallbladder, doesn’t mean it doesn’t play a vital role in your body.
Your gallbladder is essential because it stores bile made in your liver. If there are stones or blockages in your gallbladder from storing too much toxic bile, then you can feel tired, irritated, constipated and if not addressed, can lead to even more serious physical damage.
A toxic liver creates junk that clogs the bile ducts that connects your gallbladder to your small intestines. When this happens, you experience things like indigestion, gas, pain in your neck and shoulders, all kinds of unplesantries. This dysfunction can also affect your body's ability to digest fats and as such, your overall digestion.
So for optimal energy, skin health, wellness, and good vibes all around, your liver and gallbladder must be functioning well - together.
So all of this makes Spring the ideal time to detox and cleanse, which is the best way to honor and restore these organs.
A detox or cleanse is a safe and efficient way to rid your body of toxins. Ideally, it’s done in alignment with the seasons so that you can regenerate the organs honored by each season.
During a detox or cleanse, you'll may find yourself quieting your mind, releasing negative thoughts, beliefs, and destructive emotions that may be holding you back from experiencing real health and happiness.
It’s an opportunity to slow down, rebalance, and be conscious of the foods you eat, the thoughts you think, and the breaths you take. And if you do it seasonally, you can do this four times a year!
When it comes time to a Spring cleanse, the overriding theme is lightness. You’re shedding the heaviness of winter. You naturally want to eat lighter food - food lightly cooked like in a stir fry, food probably lighter in calories, avoiding heavy foods that tend to weigh us down; foods that area ideal for the winter, but now are no longer needed for this season in time.
So the questions remains - how do you do this? How do you do a Spring cleanse?
I’ve run seasonal detoxes and cleanses in the past, but haven’t run one in a while, and I don’t have any immediate plans to do so, so I thought for this episode, I’d give you some general guidelines to follow, foods that you should eat (and these are generally foods that are in season now - depending on where you live in the world), foods that you shouldn’t eat, and some body support practices, so that if you’re so inclined, you can try to incorporate some these things on your own.
First, you’ll want to eat real, whole foods. This is a given right, avoid processed foods!
Which means you’ll also want to avoid glutens, dairy, sugar, artificial sweeteners and perhaps even grains. If these things are still a part of your diet, you’ll probably wondering, “well what should I eat instead?’
You’ll want to eat foods that are in season, and I’ll list some of those out in a minute, eat organic foods and a variety of them and this is where the notion of “eating the rainbow” comes in - lots of fresh, color foods. Raw and/or sprouted seeds are great for the Spring - I love pepitas, or pumpkin seeds and of course sunflower seeds. And you’ll want to be sure that you’re eating three meals a day. Don’t skip meals (unless you’re intentionally fasting) because you want to make sure that your blood sugar stays stable, and also make sure you’re eating foods with that are high quality fats like salmon, avocado or using cooking fats that don’t change properties at high smoke points - things like ghee or coconut oi.
And this perhaps might be the hardest one of all for some of you - avoid caffeine.
Other foods to avoid, I would say in general, but at the very least, during a detox or cleanse are:
Alcohol I mentioned artificial sweeteners Beans and legumes because they can be difficult to digest Corn - another “one of the most genetically modified foods” out there Dairy products - so besides milk, this includes cheese too I mentioned gluten and grains, processed foods and refined sugar and sweeteners. If you’re not clear on what this includes, it means white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, cane juice) Soda and soft drinks Soy And sugar alcohols, like xylitol. This is often found in protein bars and gum - so avoid those too.
By now you might be thinking, “What’s left? What’s the point of life?!” I find this to be the case for many people who are still following the standard American Diet.
So here’s what you can eat instead:
In place of dairy, try dairy-free, nut milks like almond milk or coconut milk. You may be inclined to try soy milk, but personally, I avoid soy milk because soy is one of the most genetically processed foods in the world. So unless I know the source of how it’s been produced, and know it very well, I avoid all soy. You can eat all fruits and vegetables. However, during a cleanse or detox, I advise my clients to avoid nightshades because its a food group that many people have some kind of reactivity to, whether it be a food sensitivity or intolerance. This would be foods like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers - foods that grow at night. I personally find that I have an intolerance to tomatoes. I used to think it was all nightshades, but through lots of trial and error, as well as lab work, I’ve narrowed it down to just tomatoes. I can eat them, but I can’t eat of lot of them at once, or very often. You can eat animal protein from organic, grass-fed, wild sources. Animal protein has so many vital micronutrients that are essential for optimal body function You can eat: Healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia, and flax Instead of coffee, you can drink organic coffee, chicory or root blends - Mountain Rose Herb, Dandy Blend, and Yerba Mate are great brands for such drinks You can drink matcha green tea, herbal teas, filtered or distilled water, mineral water, coconut water, fresh green juices, and smoothies, and bone broth which is packed with nutrients If you need to add sweetness to your food and drinks, use natural sweeteners like honey (in limited quantities) And you can also have cultured foods and drinks like coconut water kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables like kimchee or sauerkraut
As for foods that are in season - and remember, this will vary depending on where you are in the world, but in general, seasonal foods in the Spring are:
Asparagus Avocados Beets Broccoli Carrots Cabbage Cauliflower Celery Collard Greens Cucumbers Dandelion Greens Fennel Garlic Green Beans Green onions Jicama Kale Leafy greens Lettuce Onions Parlsey Parsnips Peas Radishes Red onions Spinach Sugar snap peas Sweet Potatoes Sweet Peas Zucchini
Fruit: Apples Bananas Berries: fresh or frozen Citrus Fruits: grapefruits, lemons, oranges, etc
Herbs & Spices: Basil Cilantro Cinnamon Dill Mint Oregano Thyme Turmeric
Personally, I would highly encourage you to explore the world of herbs and spices. When I was transitioning away from processed foods to a real foods diet, I initially found it hard because I steamed and boiled a lot of foods, which doesn’t add a whole bunch of flavor. And there’s nothing exciting about eating a bland meal.
Once I started experimenting with herbs and different spices, it really changed everything for me. Now next week, I’m having my friend, fellow Integrative Nutritionist and herbalist, Carly Lockman, on the show and she’s going to share a lot of great information on herbs with us so that’s a bit of a preview to look out for next week!
Besides through diet, we can also support the detoxification and cleansing process through body support practices. Here are six exercises that I often practice and teach to my clients:
CONTRAST SHOWERING: In the shower, alternate between hot and cold water. This supports your lymphatic drainage. The hot water brings blood flow to your skin's surface while the cold water directs blood flow inward toward your organs. Try alternating three minutes of hot water, then one minute of cold, and repeat this for 15 minutes, always finishing with cold water.
OIL PULLING: Think about it - if you’re eating sugar, processed foods, conventional foods, your mouth is the first place these toxins enter and some of it stays there! Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that removes unwanted bacteria, toxins and yeast from your mouth.
Before brushing your teeth, put 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth. Some recommend using sesame oil, but for sake of flavor, I’ve found coconut oil to be the most pleasantly tasting oil to use.
Swish the oil in your mouth for 1-20 minutes. Start with one minute and then build up the duration over time.
When time’s up, spit the oil into the trash, NOT your sink; you don’t want it to clog your plumbing!
Then rinse your mouth with water, you can add sea salt too if you like, then brush your teeth.
TONGUE SCRAPING: I cannot imagine starting my day without doing this. So you’ll want to use a spoon, or buy a tongue scraper. I use one from Dr. Tungs that I get on Amazon and I’ll include a link to it in the show notes. So after brushing your teeth, you’ll use a tongue scraper or a spoon to reach to the back of your tongue, pulling forward to scrape off the white film of mucus and toxic buildup in your mouth. Do this when you’re brushing your teeth.
DRY SKIN BRUSHING: Dry skin brushing also supports your lymphatic system, as well as your kidneys and liver (super important if you haven’t figured this out by now) and it’s been shown to reduce toxins in the body.
Using a dry skin brush (I use one from Yerba Prima that I got from Amazon and I’ll include a link to this in the show notes, dry brush before you bathe or shower. You’ll want to brush toward your heart with the flow of your lymphatic system. Start at the soles of your feet and move upwards, always brushing in a circular motion.
EPSOM SALT BATHS: Epsom salt baths not only wonderful for relaxing your mind and body, but it’s also a source of magnesium, which is an important mineral that will help you with your sleep, nutrient absorption, healthy bowel movement, and brain function. Once or twice a week I’ll take an epsom salt bath, adding in essential oils. My favorites are lavender or the Serenity blend from Doterra.
CASTOR OIL PACKS: So, the first time I tried a castor oil pack, I found it to be messy and weird. But because they’re really good for liver support, I kept doing them and now I actually enjoy them.
Castor oil packs are an ancient practice used to pull toxins out from the body.
To do one, you’ll want to rub castor oil on your belly, liver which is on the right side of your body, and on your upper abdomen too. I just got a bottle of castor oil from Amazon, but I made sure to get one that came in a dark bottle because that preserves the quality of the oil. I really like the brand Banyan Botanicals for this.
Next you’ll want to cover the area where you applied the castor oil to with a cloth or towel. Some people will say to soak the oil in an old rag or t-shirt but I find that hella messy. Others will say to wrap the area in saran wrap, but hello - plastics are highly toxic. So I just cover it with a towel.
Then I place a heating pad over it, a hot water bottle can also work here too and I sit back and just relax and watch tv or listen to a podcast, or read. To minimize the messiness, I’m usually just using a sports bra, no shirt and covering the rest of myself with a blanket when I do this.
Sometimes I’ll reapply castor oil every 15-minutes (or as needed, if needed), and I’ll just relax and enjoy the experience for 45-ish minutes. I’ll literally set the timer on my phone to make sure I don’t short change myself with time!
So hopefully, this very brief summary has given you the basic idea and outline of how to do a Spring detox or cleanse. Notice there’s nothing about it that involves starvation or only drinking green juices (although they’re great to drink, just not to limit yourself to).
When done right, it can be a renewing experience that brings your body, mind and spirit, back into balance, setting yourself up for the season to come!
As I mentioned, next week I’ll be joined by Integrative Nutritionist and Herbalist, Carly Lockman for a very educational interview on herbs. We recorded it a couple of weeks and it’s so good you guys, I can’t wait to share it with you!
Now if you’re enjoying this episode, and the 79 other episodes in the podcast, can you do me a favor? Can you leave a review for it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher? This will help spread the word and suggest it to other people who are looking for content on the topics we talk about here on this show. After you leave your review, take a screenshot, post it to your social channels and tag me and I just may have a special gift for you as a thank you!
That’s it for this week, thanks so much for tuning in and I’ll see you right back here again next week!
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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